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08.08.17

Adobe Speaks Out Against Patent Maximalism and Software Patents Are on the Retreat

Posted in America, Patents at 1:17 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The Retreat Inn

The Retreat Inn

Summary: The momentum against software patents is growing as large firms which specialise in software — even proprietary software — speak out against what the US patent system has become

THE granting of software patents by the US patent office ought to stop because almost all of these patents turn out to be worthless. Courts reject them.

“We suspect there is going to be a patents battle in Wi‑Fi mesh software,” The Register wrote yesterday, but if these are patents on software they will find themselves in the ashtray of history (even if the patents state something about “Internet”).

Every now and then we find articles which make arguments similar to ours. We gave an example earlier today regarding trolls. There is another new article, this one from Dana Rao, a vice president of intellectual property and litigation at Adobe. He uses wording similar to ours in relation to patent quality and a “patent gold rush” (it’s almost as though he might be reading Techrights). To quote some portions:

Improving Patents Will Not Kill Innovation

[...]

Every patent holder is proud of their patent. As they should be. Obtaining a patent is expensive, time-consuming, and there is an adversarial process with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that you must overcome to establish that your invention is valid. But the business of patents has changed. It used to be a system that rewarded an inventor for a genuine innovation, one that the patent clearly described, and entitled that inventor to prevent anyone else from making that invention. That was a good system; it produced good patents, and strong businesses were built on the backs of those patents. That system provided an incentive for innovation that has kept America the technology leader for more than 200 years.

Unfortunately, that system is broken. Patent filings have surged over the years. Twenty years ago the USPTO granted 123,147 patents. Last year, the USPTO granted 333,583 patents. That’s 168 percent growth! Does anyone think that the number of true innovations has increased by more than 200,000 patents in just 20 years? Not a chance.

What happened? A patent gold rush built by patent profiteers.

[...]

History tells us that a refocus on quality in our patent system will not end innovation in this country. Good patents will still be awarded for good inventions, with clear claims that limit the patent to the invention the inventor invented — the way it is supposed to be. And businesses will be built on the backs of those good patents, just like they always have. Instead of complaining about the end of the age of bad patenting and patent profiteering, we should be celebrating the rebirth of a strong and credible patent system, one that will enable America to maintain its technology leadership now and into the future — built on the backs of good patents.

There is a lot to be criticised about Adobe, whose views may be inferred from the above. But when it comes to software patents, Adobe was rarely a problem or even a nuisance. Adobe’s Douglas Brotz once officially stated this: “Let me make my position on the patentability of software clear. I believe that software per se should not be allowed patent protection. […] We take this position because it is the best policy for maintaining a healthy software industry, where innovation can prosper.” (this was Adobe’s official position statement at the time)

“Software patents harm the industry,” he argued, “with no corresponding benefit.”

There is a patent bubble. It really needs to burst already. “A patent gold rush built [was] by patent profiteers,” Dana Rao explains, echoing what we’ve been saying for a long time. The EPO under Battistelli shows the same kind of thing right now, with low-quality patents being granted and the UPC pushed by the patent/litigation ‘industry’.

Speaking of the patent ‘industry’, watch what Frank Zhu from Baker Botts LLP (the patent microcosm) wrote earlier this week. He painted a negative picture of patent reform in order to thwart any improvements to patent quality. He also referred to trolls as “PAEs” and “NPEs” (the euphemisms). Here are some portions of what he wrote:

A troll is an ugly mythological creature that lives under a bridge, waiting to extort a hefty fee from whomever crosses the bridge. This vivid description of a patent troll often provides a sufficient reason to despise such an entity without giving it a second thought. However, missing from this picture is that the so-called patent trolls, often referred to as non-practicing entities (NPEs) or patent assertion entities (PAEs), actually own the bridge. A string of recent news reports seems to portray impending victory against the notorious troll: patent trolls were ordered to pay attorney’s fees;1 the original PAE law firm announced its shutdown;2 a number of PAEs have dramatically laid off employees;3 others announced that the environment has been so hostile and the business model is no longer feasible.4 However, today’s perceived success of the crusade against patent trolls may have come with a significant price.

[...]

he consensus of a panel discussion, titled “The Current Patent Landscape in the US and Abroad,” was “that dramatic changes to the US patent system are driving investment in research and development outside the country and threatening the future of American innovation.”

[...]

Hopefully, the Court is well aware that the fate of the despised is closely intertwined with that of the patent law system critical to the prosperity of this country.

That’s utter nonsense. As Adobe said (above), what harms innovation (or “the future of American innovation” as he puts it) is a legion of patent trolls. They use software patents to shake down companies to the point where some of these companies decide to just move overseas.

Here is a new example, courtesy of the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA). Josh Landau wrote about one patent troll yesterday, noting that “CustomPlay doesn’t deal with DVDs. Instead, its patents cover basic concepts in digital video playback.”

Here’s more:

The asserted patents claim to cover the concept of skipping back in a video and turning on the subtitles in order to figure out what someone said, the concept of identifying who appears in a scene of a video, the concept of providing an icon indicating information about a video scene exists, and the concept of providing information about a current video scene and a previous video scene. (The first one is asserted against Apple; the remainder against Amazon.)

So, yes, CustomPlay has essentially claimed to own the concepts of rewinding and rewatching a section of a scene with subtitles on, annotating media, the identifier for a footnote,

[...]

This is exactly what Bilski and Alice told us was unpatentable—claiming an abstract idea, and in this case, claiming an automated process for organizing a human activity. In this case, the human activity of rewatching a segment with the closed captions on so you can figure out what exactly they said.

Yes, Bilski and Alice ought to have already rendered this patent dead, yet the patent is still being used against real companies.

And speaking of Alice, Saurabh Vishnubhakat has this new paper (presented in brief today) on why abstract patents may be invalid not just because they’re abstract but also anticompetitive. As he put it in his abstract:

Wrongly preserving an invalid patent can distort the competitive market and enable abuses, such as nuisance litigation.

Here is what he had published in Patently-O last night:

Subject-matter eligibility is becoming a sort of per se shortcut for patent invalidity, in contrast to more costly inquiries like nonobviousness or enablement analogous to the rule of reason. The historical lesson of antitrust, though, has been that per se rules should be used very sparingly because a wide range of economic practices may prove to have procompetitive effects. This does not mean the conduct is definitively legal under the antitrust laws—or that a given patent is definitively valid. It simply means that more information and more careful judicial consideration are needed before an accurate decision can be reached.

Until now, the use of subject-matter eligibility at the pleading stage may be conserving decision costs, but without sufficient regard for error costs in decisions on patent validity. In my paper, I discuss problems with the current approach and propose three ways to guard against this irresponsible borrowing from antitrust.

We wrote a great deal about antitrust aspects of patent litigation/threats back when we focused on Microsoft’s attacks on Linux and the FUD campaign it had launched with Novell in 2006. But at the same time we also pointed out that virtually all the patents were on software, so ending software patents would be an indirect remedy. Alice got us a lot closer to that.

Microsoft-Connected Patent Troll (Finjan Holdings) Goes After SonicWall

Posted in Microsoft, Patents at 12:17 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The Troll in Chief, Phil Hartstein, CEO [sic] of Finjan

Phil Hartstein

Summary: SonicWall, which was a Dell subsidiary from 2012 to 2016, comes under fire from a ‘company’ whose main ‘product’ is so-called ‘intellectual property’ (litigation)*

OUR previous post, a post about patent trolls, mentioned the Microsoft-connected Intellectual Ventures, which mostly uses USPTO-granted patents to ‘nuke’ Microsoft’s rivals. There are many more Microsoft-connected trolls like that. One of them is called Finjan, which we last mentioned earlier this year, having looked closer into it two years ago and even more than half a decade ago (the Microsoft links are pretty strong).

“Finjan is just busy suing the whole world or threatening the whole world (much like its sugar daddy, Microsoft).”According to this new press release from Finjan, its notorious software patents (which probably are not patent-eligible) are now being used against SonicWall, a private company with about a thousand employees. I used their software product (VPN client) very briefly after Dell had taken over. Unlike Finjan, SonicWall is actually successful. Finjan is just busy suing the whole world or threatening the whole world (much like its sugar daddy, Microsoft).

The paid press release from Finjan did not result in any press coverage we could find; Finjan uses a separate entity to do all the trolling, so it’s possible that journalists will fail to see what Finjan really is.

It’s pretty sad that real companies with real programmers who work on real products can become the target of parasites like Finjan.

“Finjan is an example of a parasite that simply relies on patents to threaten (blackmail) or even sue.”This latest paper by Jason Rantanen (mentioned here earlier this summer) is summarised by Patently-O this week and Rantanen asserts that money or greed play a major/principal role in patenting. “The conventional explanation for why people seek patents,” he said, “draws on a simple economic rationale. Patents, the usual story goes, provide a financial reward: the ability to engage in supracompetitive pricing by excluding others from practicing the claimed technology. People are drawn to file for patents because that is how these economic rewards are secured. While scholars have proposed variations on the basic exclusionary mechanism, and a few have explored alternate reasons why businesses seek patents, the question of whether individuals—human beings—seek patents for reasons other than the conventional economic incentive remains unexplored. As Jessica Silbey recently observed, human creativity is motivated by more than just the potential for immediate economic returns. But an individual’s motivation to create does not explain why that person would go through the trouble and expense of obtaining a patent absent the promise of economic gain.”

Finjan is an example of a parasite that simply relies on patents to threaten (blackmail) or even sue. It’s acting a lot like Microsoft, which played a financial role in Finjan. We hope that readers will remember that.
_____
* “To date,” their Web site brags, “Finjan has generated more than $250M in income from the licensing of its intellectual property.”

Extortion and Racketeering: What the Latest Article at The Hill Calls Patent Trolling

Posted in Microsoft, Patents at 11:43 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

This is what we’ve always been saying

Trolls' extortion

Summary: The consensus on the effect and the innate nature of patent trolls is moving closer and closer to what we argued over a decade ago

Patent trolling isn’t the ‘business’ of small firms; there are some massive patent trolls out there and Microsoft, for example, is connected to quite a few (e.g. Intellectual Ventures); it also acts much like a patent troll itself. It’s a unique case. Trolls don’t just target small firms either; the small firms are an easy target when litigation is seen as a threat to the patent’s (or patents’) eligibility.

“Trolls don’t just target small firms either; the small firms are an easy target when litigation is seen as a threat to the patent’s (or patents’) eligibility.”The other day we saw this new article titled “Our legalized extortion racket: Congress must take on patent trolls” (we often use similar terms to describe what they do).

“The same thing is being allowed to be perpetrated in trademarks too,” somebody told me, “but there’s more money for the lawyers “correcting” patenting abuses.”

“Their exclusive function is legal marketing and creating barriers to entry for any and all industries,” said another person in relation to this.

Here’s a portion from the article:

There is no doubt we are living in turbulent times, fraught with controversy and anger. One of us is a Democrat, the other a Republican. Yet when cooler heads prevail, we find ourselves in agreement on many issues. Perhaps it’s time we focus on the common good, rather than what divides us. And regardless of political affiliation, patent reform is something we should all support.

Patents serve to safeguard American ingenuity and ensure our nation’s entrepreneurs have the legal protection they need to continue to invest in innovation, create jobs and bolster our economy. Yet through legal loopholes, patent assertion entities — companies that own patents but never use them to make anything, better known as “patent trolls” — increasingly use patents as weapons to extort businesses.

Each year, these trolls file thousands of baseless patent infringement claims, most targeting startups and smaller businesses. The trolls’ goal is to leverage a quick settlement, knowing that victims do not have the resources for a prolonged and costly court battle. Indeed, the cost of getting a frivolous lawsuit thrown out of court can be well over seven figures, often making it impossible for innocent victims to recover.

Thankfully, Europe does not yet have many trolls, but the number of troll cases grows rapidly in lieu with UPC hopes. The one good thing about Brexit (there’s hardly anything good about it) is that it can drive many law firms out of business, as their media openly admits this month. Well, they create nothing anyway; we won’t miss them. They enable ‘legalised’ extortion.

“That’s extortion and we should call it what it is. To say, as Ballmer did, that there is undisclosed balance sheet liability, that’s just extortion and we should refuse to get drawn into that game.”

Mark Shuttleworth

“Microsoft is asking people to pay them for patents, but they won’t say which ones. If a guy walks into a shop and says: “It’s an unsafe neighbourhood, why don’t you pay me 20 bucks and I’ll make sure you’re okay,” that’s illegal. It’s racketeering.”

Mark Shuttleworth

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Demonstrates the Value of PTAB in Squashing Software Patents

Posted in EFF, Patents at 11:19 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Another bogus patent bites the dust, but there are many more like it out there

Hammering

Summary: Personal Audio has likely exhausted its options as the whole existence of this troll boiled down to a patent that’s no longer valid

THE USPTO grants software patents; it has done so since the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit allowed it several decades ago. Things are changing though; the EFF’s Mr. Nazer said yesterday that “EFF wins podcasting appeal. Federal Circuit affirms Personal Audio’s patent is invalid.” Personal Audio LLC is a Texas-based troll which we wrote many articles about.

This was published under the rare banner of “PRESS RELEASE” to say:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) won a court ruling today affirming that an infamous podcasting patent used by a patent troll to threaten podcasters big and small was properly held invalid by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

A unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit will, for now, keep podcasting safe from this patent.

In October 2013, EFF filed a petition at the USPTO challenging the so-called podcasting patent owned by Personal Audio and asking the court to use an expedited process for taking a second look at the patent. More than one thousand people donated to our Save Podcasting campaign to support our efforts.

There has been press coverage since, e.g. this article which says:

A federal appeals court has upheld a legal process that invalidated the so-called “podcasting patent.” That process was held by a company called Personal Audio, which had threatened numerous podcasts with lawsuits in recent years.

On Monday, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the April 2015 inter partes review (IPR) ruling—a process that allows anyone to challenge a patent’s validity at the US Patent and Trademark Office.

“We’re glad that the IPR process worked here, that we were allowed to go in and defend the public interest,” Vera Ranieri, an EFF attorney who worked on the case, told Ars. (She told Ars that her favorite podcast is Lexicon Valley.) There had been a question as to whether EFF had standing during the appellate phase of the case.

We have been following this case for a very long time and we are not surprised by the outcome because the Federal Circuit agrees with decisions like these about 80% of the time (in spite of pressure from the patent microcosm).

Will this serve as a warning sign to patent trolls that rely on software patents? Let’s hope so.

EPO Already Thinks It’s the UPC (Which Will Likely Never Happen)

Posted in Europe, Patents at 10:46 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Fair trial

Summary: The everlasting decline of the EPO’s quality and moral compass, as evidenced by the latest words and actions

THE quality of patents at the EPO no longer matters; the President now conflates speed of decision with quality. At the same time the EPO grants patents on life — something which even the US patent office does not do. It certainly seems like Benoît Battistelli and his preached-to choir aim for the bottom of the bottom. Stakeholders and examiners do notice (they are not happy).

“It certainly seems like Benoît Battistelli and his preached-to choir aim for the bottom of the bottom.”According to this news from yesterday, the EPO grants even more monopolies on genetics (before the matter has had a chance to be examined independently/separately from the EPO). This is a recipe for disaster. All it can ever lead to is lots of frivolous litigation and this is perhaps what Battistelli aims for. He wants a UPC-like regime — something which he’ll never get to see (his days are numbered).

Earlier this week the EPO wrote “We protect inventions” and “make the world a better place!”

Really? Protect inventions? The EPO is supposed to perform patent examination. That’s all.

“Besides bribing the media (and doing a fair deal of lobbying), the EPO deems itself judge, jury and executioner before outsiders (like ILO) get a say.”Someone else noticed that and wrote [1, 2]: “Really? Is that what you do? Are you sure? I thort [sic] you decided if an invention could be protected. Have you moved into enforcement?”

Well, Battistelli’s EPO isn’t just schizophrenic. Besides bribing the media (and doing a fair deal of lobbying), the EPO deems itself judge, jury and executioner before outsiders (like ILO) get a say. Staff is preemptively fired based on bogus accusations, patents are invalidated without even a trial, and there’s a program called Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH), which helps discriminate against some applicants (like PACE).

Today we found this shameless self-promotion/marketing from Spruson & Ferguson (the third such marketing we’ve come across in the past month from that region). To quote: “The PPH pilot program enables preferential examination of an applicant’s corresponding patent applications where claims have been found patentable by the EPO or the IPOPHL/MyIPO.”

“Watching the lies (or misleading language) from the EPO is like a full-time job.”It certainly looks as though the EPO ‘forgot’ what its duties are. It sometimes seems as though the EPO is just trying to become something that it’s not. The UPC isn’t happening, so how much muscle-flexing will we see from Battistelli? How many lies?

“Surely the UK have to withdraw from the UPC due to Brexit,” someone wrote yesterday, as “UK in UPC is unworkable” (never mind a dozen other countries that have not ratified*).

Watching the lies (or misleading language) from the EPO is like a full-time job. They’re in need of a lies tracker. The EPO has not only lost world leadership; it has totally lost sight of what it’s supposed to do (as per the EPC).
_____
* Bulgaria and Greece have not ratified the UPC (perhaps never will, either), but seeing this week’s spin from Bristows [1, 2] might give people a wrong impression.

Links 8/8/2017: Linux 4.13 RC4, Unreal Engine 4.17, Mozilla Firefox 55

Posted in News Roundup at 10:00 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

Leftovers

  • Man in car seat costume tests response to driverless vehicles

    The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has launched a new effort to gauge real world reactions to driverless vehicles by disguising a human driver to look like a car seat.

  • “Driverless van” is just a VT researcher in a really good driver’s seat costume

    The video opens with a guy rapping on the window of a van.

    “Brother, who are you?” the person holding the camera says. “What are you doing? I’m with the news, dude.”

    You can see hands holding the steering wheel from the bottom, but the man inside the Ford van, dressed in a full driver’s seat costume—including a face mask—doesn’t react.

  • Science

    • Fast Times at Ridgemont High is turning 35. Learn it. Know it. Live it.
    • India will achieve 100% literacy in next 5 years: Javadekar

      “Students from class 6 to 12 are being trained to be able to pass on their knowledge to their parents, grandparents and others in the family who have been deprived of it. The child becomes a guru to them,” Javadekar said, adding “that is how we can completely eradicate illiteracy from the country”.

    • 1,000-year-old German dinner reveals long-distance Viking trade routes

      Today, the coastal city of Haithabu is an archaeological site in Germany on the Baltic Sea. But the people who munched on that dried cod roughly 1,000 years ago were living under Danish rule in a cosmopolitan port city. Haithabu was a key stop on a lively sea trade route that brought tasty treats and trinkets like walrus tusks from distant lands. Though there is ample evidence of this kind of trade 800 years ago, University of Oslo environmental biologist Bastiaan Star and his colleagues have pushed that date back at least 200 years, and possibly 400, just by sequencing cod DNA. This dramatically changes our understanding of long-distance trade in Northern Europe during the Viking Age.

    • Surviving as an Old in the Tech World
    • Brexit relocation of EU medicines regulator ‘will hit UK researchers hard’

      Two of the UK’s foremost research organisations will lose much of their business to Amsterdam if the city is successful in securing the relocation of the EU’s medicines regulator, the Netherlands’ formal bid for the prized agency claims.

      Amsterdam, which has been tipped as an early favourite to secure the European Medicines Agency (EMA), says in its application submitted to the European commission that losing the agency will prove a double blow to London when Brexit forces its move.

      “The relocation of the agency will have considerable impact, not only because it has to move its headquarters and personnel, but also because the relationship with the UK Medicines Health and Regulatory Agency [MHRA] will change and potential risks need to be minimised in the event of a hard Brexit”, the document says.

  • Hardware

    • Talos II POWER9 Workstation With OpenBMC, PCI-E 4.0 Up For Pre-Ordering

      Last month we reported that Raptor was planning to launch a new POWER workstation and now they have revealed their system specifications and pre-order details.

      The Talos II workstation is built using POWER9 processors, is one of the first systems supporting PCI Express 4.0, supports DDR4 memory, is designed to be very secure and open, and uses the OpenBMC firmware.

    • AMD Confirms Linux Performance Marginality Problem Affecting Some, Doesn’t Affect Epyc / TR

      This morning I was on a call with AMD and they are now able to confirm they have reproduced the Ryzen “segmentation fault issue” and are working with affected customers.

      AMD engineers found the problem to be very complex and characterize it as a performance marginality problem exclusive to certain workloads on Linux. The problem may also affect other Unix-like operating systems such as FreeBSD, but testing is ongoing for this complex problem and is not related to the recently talked about FreeBSD guard page issue attributed to Ryzen. AMD’s testing of this issue under Windows hasn’t uncovered problematic behavior.

    • AMD Confirms Rare Ryzen Linux Anomaly And Fix, EPYC And Threadripper Chips Unaffected

      Over the weekend, we talked about an issue surrounding AMD’s Ryzen-based processors on Unix-based OSes. Today, we learn a lot more about what’s going on, as well as which products are actually affected. But first, let’s get the upside out of the way: this bug is rare, and requires very specific conditions. The vast majority of users are not going to experience an issue, but it’s at least an issue to be aware of.

    • AMD confirms Linux “performance marginality problem” on Ryzen
    • AMD Confirms Linux Marginality Problem, Doesn’t Affect Epyc or Threadripper
    • Chip IP designer ARM becomes “Arm” — or is it arm?

      Chip IP designer ARM Holdings has released a video that rebrands itself as “Arm” and promises to bring “happiness for everyone.”

      Eleven months after UK based semiconductor IP designer ARM Holdings was acquired by Japanese technology giant Softbank Group for about $31 billion, Arm has quietly rebranded itself with a hipper, lower-case “arm” logo. The strapless new look first debuted in a platitude rich Aug. 1 YouTube video (see below) spotted on Underconsideration.com’s BrandNew page. The name change seemed to have been challenged by a bit of indecision, judging by the recent edit history on Arm’s Wikipedia page (see Aug. 7, 2017 screenshot farther below), and the Arm website shows some examples of ARM, Arm, and arm. In an email to LinuxGizmos, Phil Hughes, Arm’s Director of Public Relations, wrote: “basically arm is all lowercase for the logo and when used in text is Arm.”

  • Security

    • Security updates for Monday
    • Oracle Joins SafeLogic to Develop FIPS Module for OpenSSL Security

      Oracle announced on Aug. 3 that it is joining SafeLogic in an effort to develop a much needed FIPS 140-2 module for the open-source OpenSSL cryptographic library.

      OpenSSL is widely used to help secure internet communication and infrastructure, though it currently is lacking a critical module for government standards, known as FIPS 140-2. The Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) Publication 140-2 is a U.S. government cyber-security standard used to certify cryptographic modules.

    • OpenSSL drops TLS 1.0/1.1 support for Debian Unstable and what does it mean for Debian sid users?
    • What Women in Cybersecurity Really Think About Their Careers

      For once, some good news about women in the cybersecurity field: A new survey shows that despite the low number of women in the industry, many feel empowered in their jobs and consider themselves valuable members of the team.

      The newly published “Women in Cybersecurity: A Progressive Movement” report — a survey of women by a woman — is the brainchild of security industry veteran Caroline Wong, vice president of security strategy at Cobalt, who formerly worked at Cigital, Symantec, eBay, and Zynga.

      Wong says she decided to conduct the survey after getting discouraged with all of the bad news about women being underrepresented, underpaid, and even harassed in the technology and cybersecurity fields. The number of women in the industry has basically plateaued at 11% over the past few years.

    • Radio navigation set to make global return as GPS backup, because cyber

      The risk to GPS has caused a number of countries to take a second look at terrestrial radio navigation. Today there’s broad support worldwide for a new radio navigation network based on more modern technology—and the system taking the early lead for that role is eLoran. As Reuters reports, South Korea is preparing to bring back radio navigation with eLoran as a backup system for GPS, and the United States is planning to do the same.

    • Open source vulnerabilities pose a serious risk for software startups [Ed: The Microsoft-connected FUD firm is at it again]
    • MalwareTech released on bail; supporters to meet Wednesday

      MalwareTech, the cyber security researcher who halted the WannaCry ransomware virus earlier this year and was arrested in Las Vegas last week, will be released on bail today and will travel directly to Milwaukee for a court appearance tomorrow in the Eastern District of Wisconsin – Update: the arraignment is rescheduled for 10am on Monday, 14 August. After 24 hours of no information about his arrest, and a flurry of international news coverage, it was reported that MalwareTech, who lives in the UK and who was in the US for Defcon, was not a flight risk and will be allowed out on $30,000 bail.

    • Marcus Hutchins freed on bail, to face court on 14 Aug
    • Regarding Marcus Hutchins aka MalwareTech
    • F2FS Hit By Three Security Vulnerabilities: Memory Corruption, Possible Code Execution

      Btrfs isn’t the only Linux file-system taking some heat but the Flash-Friendly File-System (F2FS) is now having a tough week with three CVEs going public.

    • How leaked exploits empower cyber criminals [Ed: The problem is the stockpiling and the back doors (e.g. by design, see Microsoft-NSA collaborations), not just the leaks.]

      A central themes in the 2016 report was issues that arose from the Mirai botnet and the takeover of numerous insecure IoT devices. Although those record-setting DDoS attacks were vastly different from 2017’s outbreak of WannaCry ransomware and the destructive NotPetya malware, the events share a similar root cause: leaked exploits and source code. IoT botnets and data-encrypting malware were of course common before those incidents however the September 2016 release of the Mirai source code and the April 2017 release of NSA exploits exacerbated the crime.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Engineer behind Google anti-diversity memo reportedly fired
    • Free Speech Advocate Jordan Peterson (Temporarily) Shut Down by Google

      The Toronto Sun reports that professor Jordan B. Peterson suspects political reasons may have been behind Google’s recent decision to shut down his gmail account, which kept him from uploading new videos to his popular youtube channel. Peterson became famous months ago when he posted a video critical of Canada’s proposed bill C-16 that he argued would compel Canadians to use gender-neutral pronouns at risk of fines and imprisonment.

    • Google has fired the employee who penned a controversial memo on women and tech

      In a memo to employees, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the employee who penned a controversial memo that claimed that women had biological issues that prevented them from being as successful as men in tech had violated its Code of Conduct, and that the post had crossed “the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.”

      He added: “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK.”

      Pichai’s wording appears to indicate that the employee is likely be fired, which some inside and outside the company have been calling for. A Google spokesperson said the company would not confirm any firing of an individual employee, but others have been let go for violating its Code of Conduct in the past.

    • Google fires engineer who “crossed the line” with diversity memo

      Google has fired James Damore, an engineer who wrote a controversial essay arguing that the company has gone overboard in its attempts to promote diversity. Damore confirmed the firing in an e-mail to Bloomberg.

      “At Google, we’re regularly told that implicit (unconscious) and explicit biases are holding women back in tech and leadership,” Damore wrote in an internal posting that went viral within the company over the weekend. The posting was subsequently leaked to Gizmodo. However, he argued, that’s “far from the whole story.”

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • USDA has begun censoring use of the term ‘climate change’, emails reveal

      Staff at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have been told to avoid using the term climate change in their work, with the officials instructed to reference “weather extremes” instead.

      A series of emails obtained by the Guardian between staff at the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), a USDA unit that oversees farmers’ land conservation, show that the incoming Trump administration has had a stark impact on the language used by some federal employees around climate change.

    • All the climate-change related words employees at the US agriculture department can’t use anymore

      On February 16, federal employees at an arm of the US Department of Agriculture received an email from one of their bosses on how to talk about climate change under the new administration. The gist was clear: Don’t talk about it.
      According to emails obtained by the Guardian, Bianca Moebius-Clune, the director of soil health, sent employees at the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) a list of terms to avoid in the future. The NRCS is the federal office that oversees farmers’ land conservation.

    • Emails Show USDA Staff Told to ‘Avoid’ Term ‘Climate Change’ Under Trump

      Staffers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) service responsible for helping American farmers with conservation efforts were instructed by top officials to avoid the term “climate change” shortly after President Donald Trump took office, according to emails (pdf) obtained by the Guardian.

    • The Trump administration’s solution to climate change: ban the term

      In a bold new strategy unveiled on Monday in the Guardian, the US Department of Agriculture – guardians of the planet’s richest farmlands – has decided to combat the threat of global warming by forbidding the use of the words.

      Under guidance from the agency’s director of soil health, Bianca Moebius-Clune, a list of phrases to be avoided includes “climate change” and “climate change adaptation”, to be replaced by “weather extremes” and “resilience to weather extremes”.

  • Finance

    • European Union preparing to disable ATM withdrawals when banks are insolvent

      [...] today’s banking is essentially a big Ponzi scheme, under the more formal names of “fractional reserve” and “quantitative easing”.

    • European Union Proposes Account Freezes to Protect Failing Banks

      The proposed account freezes extend the ability for states to suspend account withdrawals – which currently exempt insured deposit accounts that hold less than 100,000 euros. The plan would allow the suspension of payouts for five working days, with a possible extension of 20 days allocated for “exceptional circumstances”. Existing EU legislation allows for states to initiate a two-day suspension of certain payouts in the event of potential bank failure – with deposits explicitly excluded.

    • CBA blames faulty code for alleged law violations

      The Commonwealth Bank has blamed coding errors in a software update for its Intelligent Deposit Machines for its allegedly falling foul of Australian money-laundering and terror-financing laws.

    • Tories are flushing Britain down the Brexit toilet as government’s divisions makes deal negotiation impossible

      Warring Tories flushing Britain down the Brexit toilet couldn’t navigate their way out of a bathroom with an open door.

      The mockery echoing across the Channel and Irish Sea is the sound of our impending national doom.

      Gobsmacked diplomats representing the EU’s 27 other countries are warning that Britain has zero chance of successfully negotiating a deal until it knows what it wants.

      And with the Tory government’s irreparably, fatally split such a united response is impossible.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

  • Censorship/Free Speech

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Hotspot Shield VPN throws your privacy in the fire, injects ads, JS into browsers – claim

      The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT), a digital rights advocacy group, on Monday urged US federal trade authorities to investigate VPN provider AnchorFree for deceptive and unfair trade practices.

      AnchorFree claims its Hotspot Shield VPN app protects netizens from online tracking, but, according to a complaint filed with the FTC, the company’s software gathers data and its privacy policy allows it to share the information.

      Worryingly, it is claimed the service forces ads and JavaScript code into people’s browsers when connected through Hotspot Shield: “The VPN has been found to be actively injecting JavaScript codes using iframes for advertising and tracking purposes.”

    • Separating NSA and CYBERCOM? Be Careful When Reading the GAO Report

      The Government Accountability Office last week published a report that, among other things, weighs in on the pros and cons the NSA/CYBERCOM “dual-hat” system (pursuant to which the Director of NSA/CSS and Commander of CYBERCOM are the same person). The report deserves attention, but also some criticism and context. Here’s a bit of all three.

    • NSA whistleblower discusses ‘How the NSA tracks you’

      At the outdoor hacker camp and conference SHA2017, which is taking place in the Netherlands, NSA whistleblower William Binney gave the talk, “How the NSA tracks you.”

      As a former insider, Binney knew about this long before Snowden dropped the documents to prove it is happening. Although he didn’t say anything new, Binney is certainly no fan of the NSA’s spying — he calls the NSA the “New Stasi Agency.” If you are no fan of surveillance, then his perspective from the inside about the “total invasion of the privacy rights of everybody on the planet” will fuel your fury at the NSA all over again.

      In today’s cable program, according to Binney, the NSA uses corporations that run fiber lines to get taps on the lines. If that fails, they use foreign governments to get taps on the lines. And if that doesn’t work, “they’ll tap the line anywhere that they can get to it” — meaning corporations or governments won’t even know about the taps.

    • FTC must scrutinize Hotspot Shield over alleged traffic interception, group says

      In its 14-page filing, which was submitted Monday morning, the Center for Democracy and Technology claims that the company displays persistent cookies and works with various other entities for advertising purposes, among other alleged unsavory practices.

    • Data Protection Bill: How will the new laws affect you?

      The new Data Protection Bill is designed to sign European privacy rules into British law, as well as update the existing Data Protection Act which has not changed since 1998.

    • Ireland planning to introduce national identity cards by stealth, with no debate and unclear privacy safeguards

      National identity cards are an emotive topic. In the UK, the ID card debate raged for years before and after the authorities there passed a law in 2006 to introduce them. Five years later, a change of government saw the law being repealed as a result of widespread public concerns. The Irish government seems to be adopting a different approach. It is introducing ID cards for its population while denying that it is doing so, perhaps in an attempt to dodge the heated arguments that raged in the UK.

    • Facebook addiction is a learned mess of guilt, reward and Pavlovian response

      The research showed that even glimpsing the Facebook logo or the pleasing blue-on-white colour scheme was enough to get the dopamine pumping in frequent users and might actually kick them off on a social update binge.

    • GDPR explained: How to prepare for the approaching General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

      The British government will adopt the regulation while the country remains in the EU and mirror it once it leaves, and has announced a new Data Protection Bill that will bring the regulations into UK law. The bill will likely be introduced in Parliament between the return from summer recess on 5 September and the end of 2017.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Saudi Arabia is to execute 14 young men for protesting – where is Theresa May’s condemnation?

      In most countries organising an illegal demonstration on Facebook might get you a fine or, if you’re unlucky, a short jail sentence.

      But there is one place where it can actually help get you the death penalty.

      In Saudi Arabia today there are 14 pro-democracy demonstrators who face execution after being caught up in protests against the royal family which turned violent.

    • Asylum seeker on Manus Island found dead

      Iranian refugee and journalist Behrouz Boochani, who is also on Manus Island, said the asylum seeker concerned had a long history of mental illness and distress.

      He was reportedly jailed following a mental breakdown at the regional processing centre, but was released, only to be found wandering the streets of Lorengau without clothes.

      “He was homeless in the street and in a very bad situation,” Mr Boochani told Fairfax Media on Monday.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • These are the 11 Representatives and 21 Senators that have stood up to the FCC regarding net neutrality

      11 House Representatives chastise the FCC for attempting to destroy internet freedom
      The 11 Representatives are:

      Kathy Castor (D-FL)
      Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA)
      Diana DeGette (D-CO)
      Mike Doyle (D-PA)
      Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-MA)
      Doris Matsui (D-CA)
      Jerry McNerney (D-CA)
      Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ)
      John Sarbanes (D-MD)
      Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
      Peter Welch (D-VT)

    • 10 Members of Congress rake FCC over the coals in official net neutrality comment

      “As participants either in the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 or in decisions on whether to update the Act, we write to provide our unique insight into the meaning and intent of the law.”

      [...]

      “Since we voted for the Telecommunications Act in 1996, Americans rejected the curated internet services in favor of an open platform. Now, anyone with a subscription to an ISP can get access to any legal website or application of their choice. Americans’ ISPs no longer pick and choose what online services their customers can access.”

    • Dems press FCC to extend net neutrality comment period

      Fifteen Democrats led by Sen. Ed Markey (Mass.) in a letter Thursday to Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai asked that he provide more time for comments, citing the unprecedented number of comments on the rules.

    • At least 196 Internet providers in the US have data caps

      A company that tracks ISPs and data caps in the US has identified 196 home Internet providers that impose monthly caps on Internet users. Not all of them are enforced, but customers of many ISPs must pay overage fees when they use too much data.

      BroadbandNow, a broadband provider search site that gets referral fees from some ISPs, has more than 2,500 home Internet providers in its database. This list includes telecommunications providers that are registered to provide service under the government’s Lifeline program, which subsidizes access for poor people. BroadbandNow’s team looked through the ISPs’ websites to generate a list of those with data caps.

      The data cap information was “pulled directly from ISP websites,” BroadbandNow Director of Content Jameson Zimmer told Ars. “For those that have multiple caps, we include the lowest one and an asterisk to show that they have regional variation.”

      BroadbandNow, which is operated by a company called Microbrand Media, plans to keep tracking the data caps over time in order to examine trends, he said.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Trademarks

    • Copyrights

      • How many noted the implications of the European Court of Justice ruling on Internet copyright three years ago?

        The European Court of Justice (the ECJ, “the European Supreme Court”) ruled three years ago that anything published openly on the web may be freely reused by anyone in any way on their own website. This ruling didn’t get anywhere near the attention it deserved, as it completely reverses a common misconception – the idea that you can’t republish or reuse something you happen to come across. The ECJ says that an open publication on the web exhausts the exclusivity of a work as far as the web is concerned, and that further authorization or permission from the rightsholder is not required for any reuse on the web after that, commercial or not.

      • RIAA’s Piracy Claims are Misleading and Inaccurate, ISP Says

        Internet provider Grande Communications and the RIAA continue their fight in court. Much of the battle thus far has centered around evidence of copyright infringement. In a new filing at a Texas District Court, the ISP stresses that the RIAA’s evidence is misleading, as it doesn’t prove any actual distributions of the contested works.

      • ‘US Should Include Fair Use and Safe Harbors in NAFTA Negotiations’

        The Re:Create Coalition is offering a strong counter view to recent demands from copyright groups, urging the US to add strong copyright protections to the NAFTA negotiations. The coalition argues that if strong copyright enforcement is a central issue, fair use and safe harbor protections should be included as well, to maintain a proper balance.

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