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Data Sheet—Saturday, April 30, 2016

April 30, 2016, 4:09 PM UTC

Last year I had the pleasure of paying AT&T’s global network operations center a visit. You can read about the trip here.

For a tech nerd like myself, this is Disney World. (No lines either!) Within the facility, AT&T’s technicians oversee all of the data about all the data that people are sending one another over the company’s vast network. The many, many displays in this building depict where calls are coming from, how info-packets are flowing from wire to wire, who may be experiencing issues, and what might need fixing. If the network is a nervous system, then this is its brain.

On any given day, AT&T handles 100 petabytes of data traffic. This isn’t just big data—it’s ginormous data. As of April 2011, the United States Library of Congress had stored an estimated 235 terabytes of data, as Computer Weekly relates, citing McKinsey statistics—multiply that by 400 and you’ll get an idea of the amount of information coursing through the company’s infrastructure on a single day. Yep, it’s a lot.

All of this insight helps AT&T’s network engineers tune its systems to keep people’s wireless devices plugged in, up and running. Cybersecurity is a top concern, of course. If the systems detect a swelling of traffic—a data surge—that might indicate that a distributed denial of service attack is underway. A hacker could be summoning a botnet strike. Cue automated mitigation maneuvers.

AT&T is a behemoth, ranking at number 12 on the most recent Fortune 500 list. It’s the largest telecom carrier by Fortune’s ranking, followed by Verizon at number 15. (We’ve begun work on the new list, by the way, due out this summer.) And the company’s central command does not disappoint.

Hope you enjoy the tour.

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.


Google eyes Telegram—or not? In May 2015, the search giant reportedly sent its product chief-turned-CEO Sundar Pichai to chat with Pavel Durov, creator of the encrypted messaging app Telegram, about a possible acquisition. A dispute over the company's valuation led to the breakdown of talks, according to Russian media reports. A Telegram spokesperson told Fortune the reports were "total bullshit." (Fortune)

Actually, that iPhone hack cost the FBI less than thought. The Federal Bureau of Investigation reportedly paid less than $1 million for an independent contractor to crack the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters, unnamed sources told Reuters. People originally thought the hack cost roughly $1.3 million, based on comments made by FBI Director James Comey. An interesting aside in this report: the identity of the hackers is apparently so secretly held within the agency that not even Comey knows who came forward with the technique. (Fortune)

Also, the hack will remain secret for now. The FBI recommended not submitting the iPhone-cracking method to a government review that would determine whether it should be disclosed to Apple or the public. In a statement attributed to Amy Hess, the agency's executive assistant director for science and technology, the FBI said that "we do not have enough technical information about any vulnerability that would permit any meaningful review under the VEP process.” Plausible deniability at its finest. (Fortune)

Meanwhile, Supreme Court OK's jurisdiction-less hacking. The United States Supreme Court approved an expansion of the FBI's authority to hack into computer networks. Per the rule change: search warrants for access to computers will hold water in any jurisdiction. The FBI says the extension of power is a minor and sorely needed tweak that will help it combat cybercrime, while civil liberties groups protest it on the grounds of unreasonable search and seizure. (Fortune)

Symantec CEO steps down. Michael Brown, chief executive of the antivirus software-maker, tendered his resignation after a dismal fourth quarter. The company reported revenue of $873 million, falling short of its $885 million-$915 million forecast as well as analyst expectations of $901 million. Brown had been in charge of the antivirus software-maker for a year and a half. He'll remain in the post while a search committee looks for a successor. (Fortune)

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Fortune's Valentina Zarya lets people know that Mormon women hackers are a force to be reckoned with.

Sarah Cunha and Laura Wilkinson, two seniors at Brigham Young University, didn’t make it to graduation this year. Instead, the two women spent their grad weekend, April 22-24, fighting hackers and defending a network from malware attacks at the 2016 National Collegiate Cyber Defense Championship (NCCDC).

The NCCDC, already in its 11th year, is the Olympics of college-level cyber defense. To qualify for one of the ten slots in the national competition, a school must first beat out all the local competition in a regional showdown. Just seven women participated in the NCCDC—which hosts 10 eight-person teams—this year. BYU’s team accounted for four of those seven: Cunha and Wilkinson are joined by junior Cara Cornel and senior Whitney Winder. 

“They stick out like a sore thumb,” says Dale Rowe, a BYU professor of information technology who coaches the team. Read the rest on


U.S. Is Dropping 'Cyberbombs' on ISIS by Don Reisinger

Bangladesh Bank Hackers Infected Popular Messaging Program by Aaron Presman

These Cyber Thieves Hacked the Heart of the Global Financial System by Reuters

Russia's Military Just Bought 5 Dolphins and Won't Say Why by Clay Dillow

FBI Warned Apple About iPhone Vulnerability by Reuters

Snowden Leaks Advanced Encryption by 7 Years, U.S. Spy Chief Says by Robert Hackett

Email Privacy Bill Unanimously Passes U.S. House by Reuters

Government Requests For Facebook User Data Rise Sharply by Reuters

How to Defend Against Russia and China: Missiles, Missiles, and More Missiles by Clay Dillow


The Snowden trailer is here. The first glimpses of Oliver Stone's upcoming Edward Snowden biopic are out in a short video clip. Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt visited the NSA whistleblower in Moscow to study up for his role as the lead. Personally, I think the film seems hokey—but maybe that's just because I cover this stuff for a living. What do you think of the trailer? (Fortune)