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Data Sheet—Saturday, May 28, 2016

May 28, 2016, 6:23 PM UTC

How should you conceptualize the Internet?

Let’s ask the United States’ National Security Agency circa 2007. The crew at MuckRock, a media outfit that helps people file requests for governmental information through the Freedom of Information Act, recently highlighted a wonderfully wacky guide to Internet research published by the ultra-secret intelligence agency that year. The text does not disappoint.

Michael Morisy, the site’s founder, first noticed a record of the guide, called Untangling the Web, on Google Books. He filed a request for it in April 2013 and the agency released the 650-page tome in its entirety a month later. (It’s probably fair to say that Morisy is one of the last people in the world to need a guide to Internet research, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Though much has changed in the decade since the document in question came to be, the NSA book is still worth a perusal. Its authors blend ancient history, mythology, postmodern fiction, psychoanalytics, practical tips for computer users, and more. In the preface alone, the Persian scholar Sahib Isma’il b. ‘Abbad, the Roman poet Ovid, and the Argentinian literary genius Jorge Luis Borges all make an appearance. Not bad for an opening act.

If you’re going to take the dive (and I suggest you do), prepare for the nerdiest of reading experiences. As MuckRock editor JPat Brown puts it: “you don’t have to go very far before this takes a hard turn into ‘Dungeons and Dragons campaign/Classics major’s undergraduate thesis’ territory.” That observation hits the nail on the head.

I’ll highlight just one excerpt from the book. Here’s a meditation on the Internet, per the guide’s conclusion: “no one is out of reach of this powerful, invasive technology. We change the world with our technology and we, in turn, are altered by that same technology. It remains to be seen where our technology leads us, whether into an ‘endless frontier’ or, more ominously, into a ‘cemetery of dead ideas.'”

For reference: that “endless frontier” is a nod to Vannevar Bush, one of America’s leading 20th century scientific thinkers, and the “cemetery of dead ideas” is a reference to Miguel de Unamuno, one of my all-time favorite Spanish poets. Anyway, I recommend the guide to anyone looking for some entertainment over Memorial Day weekend. In the meantime, I’ll be attending my sister’s wedding (congrats sis!), and puzzling over that Minotaur-or-centaur image on page three.

Enjoy the weather, dear readers. More news below.

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.


SWIFT bank hackers linked to North Korea. Symantec discovered similarities in code used in recent attacks on the international banking system—including an $81 million heist affecting the central bank of Bangladesh—and the 2014 cyberattack on Sony Pictures, which is widely believed to have been conducted by hackers tied to North Korea. The antivirus firm's claim supports an earlier findings by the British defense giant BAE Systems. (Fortune)

Anti-encryption bill in suspended animation. A legislative bill that would require tech companies to "backdoor" their encrypted products for the benefit of law enforcement agencies (and hackers and spies everywhere) has effectively been abandoned. Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein introduced the proposal amid Apple's showdown with the FBI over a locked iPhone in the wake of the San Bernardino terror attack. Apparently, the bill, which experts say would undermine the security of consumers and hurt America's tech economy, is having trouble finding support. (Fortune)

Beware robo-calls. Criminals are using automated phone tech in attempts to scam people out of their dough. In fact, complaints about robocalls, as their known, are on track to reach 5.2 million this year, a more than 30% increase over last year. Legislators are putting pressure on phone companies to up their security and block such counterfeit calls. (Fortune)

Japan passes Bitcoin regulations. After the implosion of Mt. Gox, once the world's biggest Bitcoin exchange, Japan has been brainstorming cryptocurrency controls. A new law designates the digital moneys as "asset-like values," and will require their users to verify their identities and register with the country's Financial Services Agency. The move is aimed at tackling issues of money laundering. (Fortune)

Palo Alto Networks takes a hit. As the Santa Clara, Calif.-based cybersecurity firm known for its "next generation" firewalls spends more on marketing, its net losses widened to $70.2 million in the third quarter from $45.9 million a year earlier. Despite a roughly 12% drop in share price a day after reporting earnings, the company's stock still is still trading at about $130 per share, significantly higher than its rivals. (Fortune)

By the way, doesn't the woman in this 1670 Dutch painting suspiciously appear to to be holding an iPhone, as Tim Cook pointed out this week?

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Fortune's Jeff John Roberts on Facebook and Google's quiet push for less face recognition tech regulation.

You know something’s up when politicians bring up a bill out of nowhere, and then try to ram it through over Memorial Day weekend. That’s what’s happening in Illinois, where state lawmakers—allegedly at the behest of Facebook and Google —are poised to gut a law that limits the use of facial recognition technology.

The law in question is called the Biometric Information Privacy Act. It gives consumers the right to sue if a company uses biological identifiers, such as fingerprints or “faceprints” (the distinct shape of a face), without permission.

In the last year, the law has become a thorn-in-the-side of Facebook and Google, embroiling them in lawsuits over their photo “tagging” tools that identify people by scanning their facesRead the rest on


Why You Should Never Email a Social Security Number by John Patrick Pullen

Hackers Use 23 Hong Kong Firms to Hide Millions Lifted From Ecuador Banks by Reuters

Do This Now to Protect Your LinkedIn Account by Jeff John Roberts

Top Banking Official Says Global Banking System Not Safe From Hackers by Reuters

Email Security Startup Raises $22 Million, CEO Says 'Funding Winter Is Here' by Robert Hackett

America's Head of Airport Security Says he Needs More Staff by Reuters

The Origin of Key Clinton Emails From the Inspector General Report Remains a Mystery by The Associated Press

Redline Capital and Telstra Invest $41 Million in vArmour by Robert Hackett

Finally! LinkedIn Comes Clean About Mass Data Breach by Jeff John Roberts

Why Apple Rehired This Prominent Security Pro by Reuters


Is North Korea experimenting with a Facebook clone? A social networking site that appears to be a straight ripoff of Facebook appears to trace back to one of the world's least Internet-connected countries: North Korea. No one's quite sure what to make of it. It's worth noting that the country developed its own operating system, based on Linux, called Red Star OS. (Vice Motherboard)