Archive for June 9th, 2012

Anonymous protests hit 18 Indian cities‎

Loosely organised international hacker group Anonymous on Saturday organised demonstrations in 18 Indian cities to protest Internet censorship.

People thronged to protest sites such as the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi raised slogans to spread awareness about the Indian government’s advances towards censoring the web.

The Indian arm of Anonymous had sent out the call for the demonstrations following a Chennai court’s order to Indian Internet providers to block access to a number of file-sharing websites.

Holding banners and raised slogans like, “Raise your voice, save your voice”, internet users protested at a number of public places across India.

The venue of the Delhi protests, initially planned at India Gate, had to be shifted to Jantar Mantar after Delhi Police denied permission to the organisers.

Apart from Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Indore, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Cochin, Calicut, Nagpur, Pune, hosted the protests Anonymous said.

Demonstrations were also held in Chennai, Ahmedabad and Jaipur, Thiruvananthapuram, Mysore, Manipal and Coimbatore, the group’s blog showed.

Anonymous’ India chapter had earlier defaced a number of websites of the Indian government and internet service providers (ISPs) after they blocked several file and link sharing sites.

The group’s blog and Facebook page, announcing protests in key Indian cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata, drew steady support from Internet users.

Taking cues from the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests in the U.S., the demonstrations in the Indian cities called for public gatherings in key urban locations.

The planned Occupy-style protests called on Internet users to throng to the protest venues wearing Guy Fawkes masks, a symbol widely used by the hacktivist group.

“Internet is the only free media we have. Censoring it will mean that free speech is not possible any more,” a member of Anonymous was quoted as saying.

If the curbs on the websites, enforced by ISPs at the behest of the government and certain courts, are not lifted, there will be more attacks on government sites, the group warned.

The Indian arm of Anonymous coordinates with its followers in mainly through its Posterous blog at http://opindia.posterous.com/ and its Twitter account @opindia_revenge.

The group has been a vocal critic of a recent clampdown on websites such as Pastebin, Vimeo and DailyMotion, by ISPs such as Airtel and Reliance.

India has 100 million Internet users, less than a tenth of the country’s population of 1.2 billion, but still the third largest user base behind China and the United States.

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Swiss court allows Google Street View

Switzerland’s highest court Friday upheld Google’s basic right to document residential street fronts with its Street View technology, but imposed some limitations on the kinds of images the company can take.

The ruling leaves the service legally intact in Switzerland, which has some of the strictest privacy safeguards in the world. Swiss regulators and Google both said they were pleased with the decision.

Google also faces an antitrust investigation in Europe on charges of dominating in the Internet search market. On Friday, the competition commissioner who is leading the inquiry gave Google an early July deadline to come up with “concrete signs” of its willingness to offer “remedy proposals.”

The commissioner, Joaquin Almunia, said in a speech that if the proposals “turn out to be unsatisfactory, formal proceedings will continue through the adoption of a statement of objections.”

Google said it was working with the commission.

Street View began as an ambitious project to photograph the world’s streets. But it turned into a worldwide controversy when it turned out that as the specially equipped cars passed by households, they were also collecting unencrypted Internet data from wireless networks – snippets of emails, photographs, passwords, postings on websites and other private information.

Google has maintained that the collection of private information was accidental – and that the data was not intended for or used in any Google product – but a recent Federal Communications Commission report failed to completely endorse that perspective. In April, the FCC fined Google $25,000, saying it had obstructed an investigation into Street View.

The Swiss ruling did not involve the collection of private Internet data but focused on the conditions for Street View cars to photograph the country’s streets.

Google introduced Street View in 2009 in Switzerland, where privacy is so closely guarded that many residents do not list their names on their front doors or mailboxes.

In 2010, the national regulator had thrown the future of Street View into question by demanding that Google’s pixilation technology, which blurred certain images, function without error, 100 percent of the time. If the high court had sided with the regulator, Google could have been forced to withdraw Street View from Switzerland because it could not meet demands for absolute accuracy.

In its ruling Friday, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, the Bundesgericht, said Google did not have to guarantee 100 percent blurring of the faces of pedestrians, auto license plates and other identifying markers captured by Google’s Street View cars; 99 percent would be acceptable. The company, based in Mountain View, Calif., says its technology blurs faces and license plates in 99 percent of cases.

While the Swiss court sided with Google on the adequacy of its digital pixilation methods, the panel upheld several conditions demanded by the national regulator. Those conditions would require Google to lower the height of its Street View cameras so they would not peer over garden walls and hedges, to completely blur out sensitive facilities like women’s shelters, prisons, retirement homes and schools, and to advise communities in advance of scheduled tapings.

Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, who has criticized the project, hailed the ruling as an important restraint on Google’s abilities to film in public.

“The ruling of the Swiss court in the Street View matter puts still more pressure on Google to pull back from the controversial service,” Rotenberg said.

But Daniel Fischer, a privacy lawyer at the firm AFP Advokatur Fischer & Partner in Zurich, called the verdict “a typical Swiss legal compromise.” He added, “Both sides got to keep face.”

Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel, said in a statement that the company would review the recommendations for adjusting its Street View procedures in Switzerland.

“We’re pleased the Swiss court has upheld a key part of our appeal, acknowledging that we have strong privacy controls in Street View,” Fleischer said.

Hanspeter Thuer, the Swiss federal data protection and information commissioner, who filed the complaint against Google, said in a statement that he was very happy with the ruling.

“It supports the core of our legal argument,” the statement said.

The Swiss case was the last one pending in Europe challenging the basic legality of Street View’s photographing methods, which had first raised privacy concerns five years ago. With the exception of Greece, European regulators and courts have allowed Google to roll out Street View in 25 countries in Europe, though often with restrictions.

German prosecutors in Hamburg and the Hamburg data protection supervisor are continuing to investigate the collection of Internet data, but have been hindered in part by the refusal of the Google engineer responsible for the project, Marius Milner, who lives in Palo Alto, Calif., to speak publicly about the project.

Since the FCC fined Google, there has been agitation in Britain and, more mutedly, in the United States for a more thorough investigation. A coalition of attorneys general looking into the matter is continuing but has had little momentum for at least a year.

The Swiss court also said Google must provide better information about Street View by, for example, allowing people to opt out of the photo archive through traditional mail services as well as online.

“A lot of people in Switzerland don’t have Internet access and they were frustrated by Google’s refusal to provide a clear postal address for their complaints,” said Eliane Schmid, a spokeswoman for the Swiss data privacy regulator.

Google employs several hundred workers at a regional office in Zurich, one of the largest it has outside the United States.

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‘Anonymous’ hackers to protest Internet laws

Global hacking movement Anonymous has called for protesters to take to the streets in 16 cities around India on Saturday over what it considers growing government censorship of the Internet. The call for demonstrations by the Indian arm of the group follows a March 29 court order issued in the southern city of Chennai demanding 15 Indian Internet providers block access to file-sharing websites such as Pirate Bay.

The order has resulted in access being denied to a host of websites that carry pirated films and music among other legal content, including http://www.isohunt.com and http://www.pastebin.com.

On Wednesday, the Anonymous forum fired an opening shot by attacking the website of state-run telecom provider MTNL, pasting the logo of the group — the mask of 17th century revolutionary Guy Fawkes — on http://www.mtnl.net.in.

In an open letter the same day, the group accused the government of trying to create a “Great Indian Firewall” to establish control on the web and issuing a “declaration of war from yourself… to us.”

Internet users and supporters have been asked to join peaceful rallies in cities including the capital New Delhi and the tech hub of Bangalore, with detailed instructions issued online to participants.

Tech website http://www.pluggd.in reported the demonstrators have been asked to wear Guy Fawkes’ masks, download a recorded message to play to police, and are to chant “United as one! Divided as zero! We are Anonymous! We are legion!”

Concerns about Internet freedom in India go beyond the court order in Chennai, however, and stem from an update to India’s Information Technology Act that was given by the IT and communications ministry in April last year.

The new rules regulating Internet companies — providers, websites and search engines — instruct them that they must remove “disparaging” or “blasphemous” content within 36 hours if they receive a complaint by an “affected person”.

Groups such as the Center for Internet and Society, a Bangalore-based research and advocacy group, have waged a year-long campaign for amendments to the rules, which were quietly released in April.

Industry groups have also objected, saying they are unclear on the changes which are in any case impossible to implement when it comes to acting on individual complaints about specific content.

“A lot of education is required in this field,” secretary of the Internet Service Providers Association of India S.P. Jairath told AFP.

The government has also become embroiled in a row with social networks after Telecoms Minister Kapil Sibal held a series of meetings with IT giants Google, Yahoo! and Facebook last year to discuss the pre-screening of content.

The minister was said to have shown Internet executives examples of obscene images found online that risked offending Muslims or defamed politicians, including his boss, the head of the ruling Congress party, Sonia Gandhi.

Since these meetings, 19 Internet firms including Google, Yahoo! and Facebook have been targeted in criminal and civil cases lodged in lower courts, holding them responsible for content posted by users of their platforms.

Anonymous is a secretive “hacker-activist” network and is thought to be a loosely knit collective with no clearly defined leadership structure.

It has claimed dozens of online attacks on sites ranging from the Vatican to Los Angeles Police Canine Association, but is increasingly the target of law enforcement agencies who have arrested dozens of members.

 

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Anonymous to protest internet censoring in 16 Indian cities, threaten to bring down government websites

BANGALORE: With a gimmick and a threat to overwhelm government web sites, internet activist group Anonymous is promising to make Saturday a day of protest against stateimposed restrictions on cyber space. Alongside online activism, Anonymous will come out from behind the safety of their computer screens and ‘occupy’ – still anonymous and behind Guy Fawkes masks – known landmarks across 16 Indian cities. To warn against censoring the internet, the group has threatened to bring down government websites on the same day. How big the turnout will be is still unclear, but the Facebook page where mobilisation has been taking place has 6,000 members. Guy Fawkes is famous in English history for the 1605 Gunpowder Plot that sought to blow up Westminster Palace in an act of defiance and revolution. The mask was made famous by the popular 2006 movie, V for Vendetta, and has since then been used in protests worldwide, including in Occupy Wall Street. “We choose the government so that we have our rights and freedom but this lame government is stealing our freedom of speech and expression,” an Anon, or a member of the AnonyHow big the turnout will be is still unclear, but the Facebook page where mobilisation has been taking place has 6,000 members. Guy Fawkes is famous in English history for the 1605 Gunpowder Plot that sought to blow up Westminster Palace in an act of defiance and revolution. The mask was made famous by the popular 2006 movie, V for Vendetta, and has since then been used in protests worldwide, including in Occupy Wall Street. “We choose the government so that we have our rights and freedom but this lame government is stealing our freedom of speech and expression,” an Anon, or a member of the Anonymous, told ETover an Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel, an online forum that the group uses for organising and mobilising. Government censorship is a “serious declaration of war from yourself, the Indian government, to us, Anonymous, the people”, Anonymous said in an open letter on Thursday. The peaceful protest, venues for which have been decided, will start with a pre-recorded message that lays out the contours of the movement, followed by rhythmic chanting of the group’s slogan, “We are anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us!” No Confrontation With Police Specific instructions warn protesters to avoid confrontation with police and to not litter streets with banners, after the event is over. Anonymous shot to fame globally a year ago when they brought down the websites of Visa, MasterCard and PayPal for their refusal to allow users to donate to WikiLeaks, an online initiative that seeks to make public, classified information protected by governments and corporations. The group surfaced in India a few weeks ago, when the government asked internet service providers to block file-sharing sites. Anonymous responded by taking down the websites of Supreme Court and the Congress party, and others including that of India’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT). Typically, this is done through a Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack – where a group of users flood the target website with multiple requests simultaneously. Such attacks make the sites temporarily unavailable but do not damage any data. Anonymous considers attacks to be similar to traditional form of non-violent protests, much like a dharna or sit-in and does not think it violates any laws. “We are not causing harm to humans. We are instead helping people by taking down intellectual property of the government,” an Anonymous activist countered. Even if one of them gets caught it is not a danger to the group because members do not even know each others identity, he added. “I think they will ignore us,” a member of the group said. If that happens, then they plan to escalate the attacks to actually damaging the websites. “Erasing their (government’s) websites and nuking – a technical term of damaging the website completely – will be the only option.” Sunil Abraham, director at the Center for Internet and Society, said that that could potentially get Anonymous into trouble with the law. However, another senior executive closely associated with the government cyber security apparatus told ET on condition of anonymity that vigilantes like Anonymous help in putting checks and balances and to bring things to public’s attention.

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Seen@E3: Atlus’ custom Persona 4 Arena arcade stick

During E3, we met with Atlus to check out Persona 4 Arena , among other things, and upon sitting down at the small table in our private presentation room we were surprised to find a P4A arcade stick waiting for us. Immediately, our hearts were all a-flutter with the prospect of a nice limited edition arcade stick. “There is an official HORI stick in Japan,” Aram Jabbari told us, “but this is a Mad Catz that we’ve customized. There is no official North American stick at this time,” and as quickly as they had arisen, our hopes were quickly dashed. Jabbari, who is Atlus’ Manager of PR and Sales, said we could post about the stick so long as we promised not to insinuate that it was a real product, or that it was ever going to be released. So! Expect to see it on store shelves before the end of the month. (But seriously , there is no North American stick at this time. )

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LinkedIn breach puts site’s reputation on the line

LinkedIn Corp’s silence on the extent of a security breach that exposed millions of user passwords has damaged its reputation among some business professionals, and may slow the fast-growing company’s rise if the breach turns out to be more serious than so far disclosed. Several days after news of the theft of the passwords emerged, the site with more than 160 million members still says it has yet to determine the full extent of the breach. Some cyber security experts say LinkedIn did not have adequate protections in place, and warn that the company could uncover further data-losses over the coming days as it tries to figure out what happened. LinkedIn is conducting an investigation to determine how more than 6 million customer passwords turned up on underground sites frequented by criminal hackers. Company spokesman Hani Durzy said LinkedIn does not even know if any account information was stolen besides passwords. The dearth of information has left some security professionals and customers worried that LinkedIn’s computer systems may have suffered a more serious breach. “There is going to be more to come,” said Jeffrey Carr, chief executive of security firm Taia Global. “As long as they don’t know what happened here, there is a good chance that it is more widespread than originally thought.” Customers whose passwords were among those stolen were still getting notified by LinkedIn as of Friday afternoon, days after news of the breach first surfaced. Laura DiDio, a technology analyst with a consulting firm known as ITIC, said that was not fast enough. “I am angry,” she said. “As soon as there was an inkling that there was a breach, they should have been all over this. I want to know what they are doing to correct this situation.” SCRUTINIZING PRACTICES Some security experts say the company’s data security practices were not as sophisticated as one would typically expect from a major Internet company. For example, they noted that LinkedIn does not have a chief information officer or chief information security officer. Those are positions that typically supervise technology operations and computer security at large corporations. Company spokeswoman Erin O’Hara said the company did not have managers with those titles, but that its senior vice president for operations, David Henke, oversees those functions. Several experts said the company fell down in the way it encrypted, or scrambled, the passwords that were stored in the database. The technique they used to encrypt those passwords is relative simple one that hackers can crack fairly quickly with only a moderate level of skills and widely available computer resources, they said. When asked to comment on that criticism, the company said on Thursday that LinkedIn was already taking steps to improve security, including improving the technique it uses to protect those passwords. LinkedIn is a natural target for data thieves because the site stores valuable information about millions of professionals, including well-known business leaders. “This is the serious social networking site. This isn’t the one I got to see pictures of my friend’s new dog,” said Mary Hildebrand, chair of the privacy practice area at the law firm Lowenstein Sandler. WARNING CUSTOMERS The way that the company responds to the theft will play a critical role in determining the extent to which the incident damages LinkedIn’s reputation, experts said. “LinkedIn has always claimed part of their strategy is making a better user experience,” said Jim Janesky, director of research at Avondale Partners. “If this were to comprise that in LinkedIn’s users minds, it could slow down the growth of new users or limit individuals as repeat users.” Hemanshu Nigam, chief executive of security consulting firm SSP Blue, said he advised all LinkedIn members to immediately change their passwords after he heard news of the breach. “I don’t know how many emails I got from customers saying ‘Thank you for telling me to change my password. I’m kind of freaked out now,'” he said. “Companies like this survive because of their reputation,” added Nigam, who previously worked as a security executive at Microsoft Corp and News Corp. “People need to make a decision: ‘Can I trust them with my data or not?'” LinkedIn shares rose 2.6 per cent to $96.26 on Friday. While the breach has not appeared to hurt the stock to date, investors are likely closely watching the matter closely because the stock carries one of the loftiest valuations in the technology sector. LinkedIn made a monster public debut in May 2011 and is still trading at more than double its IPO price of $45. The shares are trading at nearly 80 times projected 2013 earnings. Google trades for about 12 times next year’s earnings forecast. Rob D’Ovidio, associate professor of criminal justice at Drexel University, said it is fair to criticize LinkedIn for the loss. “There is a social responsibility that they have in today’s day and age to use the best available security measures,” he said. “I am of the personal belief to hold companies liable for these types of breaches.”

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Apple may unveil app to replace Google Maps

SAN FRANCISCO: When Apple Inc kicks off its annual conference for software developers on Monday, all the power players in the Apple universe will be on hand, save the one that is in many ways driving the agenda: Google Inc.

More than ever, the consumer electronics juggernaut finds itself in a pitched battle with the online search giant — in smartphones, cloud computing and the never-ending competition for the hearts and minds of the best software developers.

Apple on Monday is expected to announce its own mapping application, displacing Google Maps as one of the most-valued features on the iPhone. It will unveil closer integration of its iPhone apps and its iCloud storage service, the latest riposte in its battle with Google’s Android smartphone software.

It may promote the latest in Siri, the voice interface that the company thinks can continue to set the iPhone and the iPad apart from the Android pack.

And there will likely be a new line of Macintosh laptops too – underscoring the leverage that a full line of hardware products can bring to what is mainly a software war with Google.

Apple is looking to differentiate its mobile devices from Google’s Android by further enticing consumers deeper into its app ecosystem, Carolina Milanesi, Gartner Research analyst, said.

“It’s all about loyalty and basically leveraging the opportunity of selling more to them,” she said. “I don’t think the consumers in the mass market are necessarily tied into the Android ecosystem in the same way that consumers on the Apple side are.”

Battling in many arenas, the rivals employ different weapons. Apple’s vice-like grip on its ecosystem–with the closely managed app store and its seamless integration with the hardware–stands in sharp contrast with Google’s free-for-all approach.

The open system approach, reminiscent of Microsoft’s hugely successful strategy of creating standard-setting software that runs on a variety of hardware, has allowed Android to capture the market lead in smartphones (albeit with nothing close to Apple’s profit margins.)

Android has also helped to create several potent hardware rivals to Apple. Samsung Electronics’ Android-driven Galaxy SIII is drawing favorable comparisons to iPhone and Amazon.com Inc’s cheaper Kindle Fire is challenging Apple in tablets and digital content.

Apple’s expected move to replace Google Maps with its own mapping application is a particularly dramatic example of how the rivalry between the companies has been evolving.

Google has invested huge sums in its mapping technology over the years, and about half of its map traffic now comes from iPhones and iPads. Among other things, the traffic from those devices reveals valuable location data that helps improve the mapping service and provide features, like real-time traffic reports.

Apple has spent three years preparing to take mapping back. It has integrated technology from acquisitions such as 3D mapping company C3 Technologies, Canadian startup Poly9 Group and mapping service Placebase, ISI analyst Brian Marshall said.

“As Apple builds out its Siri service, they build out the iCloud infrastructure and more capability into its operating system, location data is going to become important,” said Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu.

“This could help their advertising business too.”

MULTI-PRONGED BATTLE

In what was seen as a pre-emptive move against Apple’s upcoming maps service, Google on Wednesday showed off its own mapping capabilities, including soon-to-be-launched 3D features.

While Google executives avoided any comment on the possibility of being ousted as a default service on Apple devices, one executive said the integration with Google’s search engine provides a mapping serving that is far more useful than a product that simply uses a “geocoder.”

Apple began to use its own geocoder — technology that uses geographic coordinates to create a digital map — for the Google-based maps on its smartphones late last year, a move that was seen as a precursor to Apple using its own map software.

Another software upgrade that fans and developers are hoping for is Siri, a popular voice-enabled personal assistant service that Google has yet to match.

The service could come out of its beta testing phase and show up on the iPad when Apple unveils iOS6 or the next version of its mobile operating software.

Siri, which has been plagued with connectivity and other issues, is still in beta test version.

Apple’s global war on Google and Android in the courts is one sign of how seriously it’s taking the potential threat. The consumer device giant is seeing limited success, though, in courtrooms for various patent infringement cases it has against Android manufacturers.

Apple said this week it is mulling a legal order to stop the U.S. launch of Samsung Galaxy S III phone later this month. Samsung is one of the biggest Android phone manufacturers.

In another of the many lawsuits worldwide pitting Apple against Motorola Mobility, now owned by Google, a federal judge canceled a scheduled trial as neither could prove damages. That decision particularly hurts Apple because the iPhone maker was seeking an injunction barring the sale of Android products, said Brian Love, a professor at Stanford Law School. “The Android side is likely thrilled to simply have the case go away,” Love said.

MACBOOK REDESIGN IN THE WORKS

Where Apple has the upper hand is in its hardware — groundbreaking in design, vastly popular with consumers for its ease of use.

The re-designed MacBook laptops to hit the stage next week are expected to include high-definition screens and Intel’s

Ivy Bridge cutting-edge processors. Some even expect the iPad’s “retina” display to show up on the MacBook line.

This would be Apple’s first big redesign of the MacBook Pro since mid-2009. With the new line-up, it hopes to fend off budding competition from rival manufacturers who are pushing a spate of new, thinner laptops called “Ultrabooks.”

Windows 8, a new version of Microsoft’s flagship operating system that runs on tablet computers as well as PCs will bolster PC makers ability to offer premier computers rival ling Apple’s MacBook line.

Already, about 20 touch-enabled ultrabook designs with various styles of foldable, detachable or sliding keyboards running the new Windows 8 system is in the pipeline.

The MacBook line generated 13 percent, or about $5 billion, of Apple’s fiscal second-quarter revenue. Unit sales of the aging line-up were up 7 percent from the previous year but were down 23 percent sequentially.

Whatever the case, Apple fans and partners can look forward to a fairly action-packed week.

“Apple is very serious about getting far in front of Windows 8 and Ultrabooks,” Barclays analyst Ben Reitzes said. But “software and services will be the focus, with major enhancements to Maps, iCloud and Siri, which developers and users can take advantage of.”

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