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Given that we now know that the National Security Agency (NSA) has the ability to compromise some, if not all of VPN, SSL, and TLS forms of data transmission hardening, it’s worth considering the various vectors of technical and legal data-gathering that high-level adversaries in America and Britain (and likely other countries, at least in the “Five Eyes” group of anglophone allies) are likely using in parallel to go after a given target. So far, the possibilities include:

  • A company volunteers to help (and gets paid for it)
  • Spies copy the traffic directly off the fiber
  • A company complies under legal duress
  • Spies infiltrate a company
  • Spies coerce upstream companies to weaken crypto in their products/install backdoors
  • Spies brute force the crypto
  • Spies compromise a digital certificate
  • Spies hack a target computer directly, stealing keys and/or data, sabotage.

Let’s take these one at a time.

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Original author: 
Cyrus Farivar

Aurich Lawson

This is the first in a two-part series exploring Butterfly Labs and its lineup of dedicated Bitcoin-mining hardware. In part one, we look at the company and the experiences customers have had with it. In part two, to be published on June 29, we share our experiences running a Bitcoin miner for a couple weeks. Spoiler alert: we made money.

The more I dig into Bitcoin, the stranger it gets. There’s gray-market online gambling and Russian-operated futures markets—to say nothing of the virtual currency’s wild ride over the last several months. It’s full of characters with names like “artforz” and “Tycho,” supposedly two of the largest Bitcoin holders out there. Of course, like most things Bitcoin, it’s nearly impossible to know for sure.

While reporting on a Bitcoin-based gambling story earlier this year, I interviewed Bryan Micon, who works with a Bitcoin-based poker site called Seals With Clubs. (To continue the lack of information, Micon won’t say who owns the site.) Micon has taken it upon himself to investigate what he believes are Bitcoin-related scams—such as the ill-fated Bitcoin Savings and Trust online bank—and he makes public pronouncements about them.

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Original author: 
Cyrus Farivar

Aurich Lawson / Jonathan Naumann / Joi Ito / Stanford CIS

Fifteen years ago, I was living outside Geneva, Switzerland, spending my lunch hours screwing around on the nascent Web a few dozen kilometers from where it was created. I popped into chat rooms, forums, and news sites, and I e-mailed family back home. I was learning French and getting my dose of tech news by reading the French-language edition of Macworld magazine. (Génial!)

I returned Stateside mere months after Ars began, reading more and more about the people behind many of the technologies that I was becoming increasingly fascinated with. I consumed just about every book I could find describing the history and personalities behind graphical user interfaces, networking, the Internet itself, and more.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned through all that, it’s that most people involved in technology continue the Newtonian tradition of humility. The most iconic innovators all seem to readily acknowledge that they stand on the shoulders of giants. In fact, when I met Vint Cerf and thanked him for making the work I do possible, he was a predictable gentleman, saying, “There were many others involved in the creation of TCP/IP, not just me.”

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Original author: 
Cyrus Farivar


Smári McCarthy, in his Twitter bio, describes himself as a "Information freedom activist. Executive Director of IMMI. Pirate."

SHARE Conference

On Friday, two Icelandic activists with previous connections to WikiLeaks announced that they received newly unsealed court orders from Google. Google sent the orders earlier in the week, revealing that the company searched and seized data from their Gmail accounts—likely as a result of a grand jury investigation into the rogue whistleblower group.

Google was forbidden under American law from disclosing these orders to the men until the court lifted this restriction in early May 2013. (A Google spokesperson referred Ars to its Transparency Report for an explanation of its policies.)

On June 21, 2013, well-known Irish-Icelandic developer Smári McCarthy published his recently un-sealed court order dating back to July 14, 2011. Google sent him the order, which included McCarthy's Gmail account metadata, the night before. The government cited the Stored Communications Act (SCA)(specifically a 2703(d) order) as grounds to provide this order.

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Original author: 
Cyrus Farivar

On Thursday, the world’s largest Bitcoin exchange, Mt. Gox, announced that it would require all users to “be verified in order to perform any currency deposits and withdrawals. Bitcoin deposits do not need verification, and at this time we are not requiring verification for Bitcoin withdrawals.”

The company did not provide any explanation about why it was imposing this new requirement, but it did say that it would be able to process most verifications within 48 hours.

The move comes two days after federal prosecutors went after Liberty Reserve, another online currency that had notoriously poor verification. (In court documents, a federal investigator in that case included an address of “123 Fake Main Street, Completely Made Up City, New York” to create an account that was accepted.) It also comes two weeks after the Department of Homeland Security started investigating Mt. Gox over the possible crime of money transmitting without a license.

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Cyrus Farivar

When we left off, former software impresario and all-around goofball John McAfee had fled Central America and landed in, of all places, Portland, Oregon. Now he's speaking publicly, offering up stories about his life like:

I had my right testicle shattered by a hammer in 1974 when I ran afoul of some local drug barons in Oaxaca. It's the size of a grape now and shaped like a small frisbee.

And:

I was also taking more drugs weekly than most of you will do in a lifetime, and I was a totally indiscriminate user. Whatever came across my desk went up my nose, down my throat, in my veins or up the nether region.

The stories get stranger from there.

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The Freebox acts as DSL modem, router, Wi-Fi router, NAS, DVR, and DECT base—all in one single device.

weweje

France's darling indie ISP, Free, has shaken up the French Internet landscape yet again: in a quiet firmware update released Wednesday evening, the company added an ad blocking option to its Freebox router and activated it by default.

On its developer blog, the company simply wrote (in French) that the Freebox's firmware update 1.1.9 included the “[a]ddition of an ad blocker that allows ad blocking (beta)”

The new move means that any user who has the new firmware will have ad blocking on any device connecting to the Internet via the Freebox.

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UPDATE: Many sites have pointed out that Vice Magazine, which is accompanying John McAfee as he runs away from Belizean law enforcement, seems to have accidentally revealed his location taken by an accompanying reporter. Based on the location data in the photo's metadata (EXIF), at least at the time of that photo, he was in Guatemala, just over the border from Belize. For what its worth, McAfee now claims that that GPS location was fake, too. In any case for all folks who want a little more privacy with their photos, here's some tips from Lifehacker. Still, McAfee adds: "I do not believe that Vice will remain with me further. Again, my apologies."

A few weeks ago, founder of McAfee Security John McAfee (he no longer has any connection to the company), was named by Belizean authorities as a “person of interest” in the murder of another American expatriate also living in the Central American country. Since then, McAfee has been on the lam, somehow managing to evade authorities in a country with 300,000 residents living in an area slightly smaller than Massachusetts.

After rumors of his arrest on his own website over the weekend, McAfee now reports that he is “safe" and outside of Belize for the moment, but he plans on returning.

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Enter Winamp, the skin-able, customizable MP3 player that "really whips the llama's ass." In the late 1990s, every music geek had a copy; llama-whipping had gone global, and the big-money acquisition offers quickly followed. AOL famously acquired the company in June 1999 for $80-$100 million—and Winamp almost immediately lost its innovative edge.

“There's no reason that Winamp couldn’t be in the position that iTunes is in today if not for a few layers of mismanagement by AOL that started immediately upon acquisition,” Rob Lord, the first general manager of Winamp, and its first-ever hire, told Ars.

The problems began early, since Nullsoft wasn't interested in being a traditional corporate unit. For instance, in 2000, just a year after the acquisition, Frankel released (and open sourced) Gnutella, a new “headless” peer-to-peer file-sharing protocol that understandably steamed the bigwigs at AOL corporate headquarters in Dulles, Virginia.

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