28 September 2012


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24 September 2012

Iran Preparing Internal Version of Internet

Washington Post (09/20/12) James Ball
                ; Benjamin Gottlieb

The Iranian government reportedly has established a technical platform for a national online network that would exist independent of the Internet and allow for tighter information regulation.  The network's development has been accelerated by cyberattacks targeting Iran's nuclear program, according to Iranian officials and outside experts.  A forthcoming report from U.S. security researchers working under the aegis of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Global Communications Studies found functional versions of the sites of Iranian government ministries, universities, and businesses on the network, as well as indications of an operational filtering capability.  The researchers note the network already is "internally consistent and widely reachable."  The findings have sparked concerns not just about human rights violations but also about Internet integrity, says the U.S. State Department's David Baer.  "When countries section off parts of the Web, not only do their citizens suffer, everyone does," Baer says.  With the infrastructure for a self-contained, Iran-only Internet in place, the government would have more power to suppress online access during periods of civil unrest.  Retired U.S. National Security Agency deputy director Cedric Leighton says the construction of a national network could give government-supported hackers more capabilities to launch and repulse cyberattacks.

14 September 2012

Who's Trustworthy? A Robot Can Help Teach Us

From ACM TechNews:
Who's Trustworthy? A Robot Can Help Teach Us
New York Times
(09/10/12) Tara Parker-Pope

Researchers at Northeastern University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Cornell University say they have found specific behaviors that seem to warn the human brain that another person cannot be trusted. First, the researchers filmed students interacting with other students they had never met in a game designed to elicit untrustworthy behavior. The researchers found that cues such as leaning away from someone, crossing arms in a blocking fashion, rubbing the hands together, and touching oneself on the face were indicators of untrustworthy behavior. "The more you saw someone do this, the more intuition you had that they would be less trustworthy," says Northeastern professor David DeSteno. The researchers then set up the same experiment with students playing the game with a friendly-faced robot. Some of the robots did not perform the untrustworthy cues while others did, and the students rated them as more untrustworthy. "It makes no sense to ascribe intentions to a robot, but it appears we have certain postures and gestures that we interpret in certain ways," says Cornell professor Robert H. Frank. The study suggests there could be an evolutionary benefit to cooperation, and to being able to identify untrustworthy people.

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07 September 2012

Researchers Find Most BitTorrent Users Being Monitored

Phys.Org (09/05/12) Bob Yirka

Birmingham University researchers have found that users who frequently access BitTorrent file-sharing sites are more vulnerable to having their Internet Protocol (IP) address logged by monitors within three hours of accessing the site.  Led by Birmingham's Tom Chothia, the researchers found the extent to which monitors are tracking users on file-sharing sites by monitoring activity themselves over a two-year period.  Users who go to BitTorrent sites generally become aware of blocklists, which are lists of the IP addresses of known monitors.  However, the researchers found that these lists include many false positives and negatives, making them almost useless in preventing monitoring.  In order to determine which clients were real users and which were monitors, the researchers identified several characteristics of monitors that make them stand out.  The researchers found that monitors are much busier and more active than users who generally tend to only log on when they want a certain file.

06 September 2012

Benjamin Mako Hill,

A strong free software movement focused on the principled issues of software freedom — and a strong FSF in particular — will determine what freedoms the next generation of computer users enjoy. At stake is no less than the next generation's autonomy.
Benjamin Mako Hill, writer, technologist and FSF board member