Privacy gaslighting. Two Princeton professors are taking Google to task for suggesting that blocking "cookies," web browser-based ID tags, will harm people's privacy. Google argues the move will encourage "fingerprinting," a more persistent and invasive form of tracking. The professors counter that Google is being disingenuous; as they write, "it is unlikely that Google can provide meaningful web privacy while protecting its business interests, and Chrome continues to fall far behind Safari and Firefox."
Ransomware-opolis. Municipalities across America are getting ravaged by ransomware attacks, most recently a couple dozen cities in Texas. Hackers pick these targets assuming the cash-strapped local governments don't have the resources to keep their systems up to date and protected, as the New York Times writes. The cities have shown a willingness to pay up to in order to get services back up and running.
Taking care of business. There were a few big business moves in the cybersecurity industry this week. VMware bought Carbon Black, a computer protection software-maker, plus Pivotal, a data analytics startup, for a combined $4.8 billion. Splunk bought SignalFX, a cloud monitoring startup, for $1 billion. And Ping Identity, maker of identity management software, filed for a $100 million initial public offering on the Nasdaq stock exchange.
5Gotham. As New York City plans its rollout of 5G, the next generation of cellular networking, city officials are thinking through how to do so safely and securely, the Wall Street Journal reports. Security experts warn that the prevalence of Internet-connected devices will be a playground for hackers.
Attention nuclear engineers: Please do your bitcoin mining at home.
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The art of persuasion. Everywhere you look, states, political actors, and troll farms are exploiting Internet tools to spread disinformation, propaganda, and, ultimately, influence. As Sophia Ignatidou, a Catham House fellow, writes for The Guardian, baddies are ramping up their abuse of data mining to hijack minds and behaviors. "We may soon be dealing not just with disinformation or communications blackouts, but with mass-scale surreptitious manipulation through nudging," she warns.
Communication has been weaponised, used to provoke, mislead and influence the public in numerous insidious ways. Disinformation was just the first stage of an evolving trend of using information to subvert democracy, confuse rival states, define the narrative and control public opinion. Using the large, unregulated, open environments that tech companies once promised would “empower” ordinary people, disinformation has spread rapidly across the globe. The power that tech companies offered us has become a priceless tool in propagandists’ hands, who were right in thinking that a confused, rapidly globalising world is more vulnerable to the malleable beast of disinformation than straightforward propaganda. Whatever we do, however many fact-checking initiatives we undertake, disinformation shows no sign of abating. It just mutates.
China’s Lax Attitude About Privacy Is Shifting by Clay Chandler
Facebook Releases New Privacy Measures, But They May Not Appease Critics by Chris Morris
Tired of Robocalls? You may Be Free of Them Soon by John Reid and Susan Decker
How Google's Plan to Increase Your Online Privacy Differs from Apple and Firefox Ideas by Gerrit de Vynck
Arms Traffickers Use Snapchat to Sell Illegal Weapons by Chris Morris
ONE MORE THING
Crystal healing. Each year at Defcon, the popular Las Vegas hacking conference, attendees receive hackable badges—a puzzle to test their "leet" skills. This year's event featured electronic crystal badges that could be "unlocked" after interactions with other guests and show-runners wearing like badges. The mastermind behind this strange quest, Joe Grand, also known by the hacker alias "Kingpin," shared the inspiration for his design, a particular image, with tech blog Ars Technica.
"It was all pastel colors and clouds and a woman holding a laptop. It was an ad from the '70s about like the future of technology—the good side of technology. Instead of technology owning you, it's if technology helped you. And I saw that picture and I was just like, something was just like crystals. I don't know, it seemed sort of new age-y."