Tag Archives: Donald Trump

Facebook Shuts Down DC Anti-Racist Rally Pages

Facebook announced that it had uncovered websites that may have been intended to disrupt the coming mid-term elections. According to the Washington Post Facebook deleted 32 false pages and profiles that were created between March 2017 and May of this year.  The misinformation websites lured nearly 300,000 people with ads, events and regular posts focused on race, fascism and feminism with the intent to spark backlash against Donald Trump. Facebook notified law enforcement officials before deleting the profiles Tuesday morning. The company also notified members of congress of the activity and will notify the real Facebook users who were swept up in the operation.

But it seems that some legitimate organizations have been caught up in the Facebook cleanup operation. Organizers in Washington D.C are angry with Facebook for taking down their legitimate page that was organizing a counter protest against a “Unite the Right  2.0” rally scheduled to take place in D.C on August 12th.

DCist, one one of organizers of the counter protest, say their counter-rally is legitimate and backed by a number of real organizations.

Dylan Petrohilos of “Resist This” said, “This was a legitimate Facebook event that was being organized by Washington, D.C. locals.”  Petrohilos was a defendant in a rioting case during the Inauguration of Donald Trump. 

Petrohilos said “Shut It Down DC” is the group organizing the counter protest. The group formed after known white supremacist Jason Kessle, organizer of the Charlottesville rally, announced plans for the D.C. rally. The counter protest will involve numerous local groups, including the D.C. Antifascist Collective, Black Lives Matter D.C., Hoods4Justice, and Smash Racism D.C.

Facebook issued a press release saying that the original creator of the “No Unite the Right 2 — DC” page was created in part with a fake “Resisters” account. Facebook did not explicitly connect the pages to the Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA). According to U.S. intelligence officials the IRA is a source Russian misinformation and propaganda efforts. Facebook did however say it had “found evidence of some connections” between the IRA and whoever was behind the pages.

Facebook wrote; The Event – “No Unite the Right 2 – DC” – was scheduled to protest an August “Unite the Right” event in Washington. Inauthentic admins of the “Resisters” Page connected with admins from five legitimate pages to co-host the event. These legitimate pages unwittingly helped build interest in “No Unite Right 2 – DC” and posted information about transportation, materials, and locations so people could get to the protests.

Organizers say that the counter-protest will still take place.  A legitimate replacement event page has been created. Organizers however are still angry with Facebook for removing the original page because it had numerous RSVPs and was the hub for discussion and planning.

 

Facebook’s Dirty Scandal – Now You Know!

Image courtesy of Arztsamui

The world’s greatest social media network! The greatest collector of personal information in history of mankind! The greatest surveillance machine ever created! All this can be said of Facebook. But when you screw up it quickly becomes equally great. 

Facebook knew its security was weak.

 Facebook’s Chief Information Security Officer, Alex Stamos  argued that the amount of data Facebook was collecting made it a target for hackers, spies and hostile state actors. 

In an audio recording leaked to ZDNet, Stamos was heard telling his security team that he had warned management “that we have the threat profile of a Northrop Grumman or a Raytheon or another defense contractor, but we run our corporate network, for example, like a college campus, almost.” Executives inside Facebook were not happy.

Stamos argued for more openness about how Russian agents used Facebook to influence the 2016 presidential election and beyond. From the inside Stamos fought for organizational changes that would at least minimize the use of misinformation. Again, Facebook executives resisted his efforts. As a result Stamos is planning to depart Facebook by August.

Between 2011 and 2012 former Facebook platform operations manager, Sandy Parakilas, was  responsible for policing data breaches by third-party software developers. According to the Guardian he warned senior executives at the company that poor data security measures were a major vulnerability.

“My concerns were that all of the data that left Facebook servers to developers could not be monitored by Facebook,” said Parakilas, “so we had no idea what developers were doing with the data.”

Parakilas went on to say that Facebook had terms of service and settings that “people didn’t read or understand.” Parakilas went on to accuse Facebook of failing to use any enforcement mechanisms at its disposal, including audits of external developers, to ensure data was not being misused. Basically Facebook was warned by its own employees of the coming danger.

What happened?

Facebook basically lost control of the personal data of over 50 million users. The data was then used to target American voters with misinformation, fake news and other highly manipulated information by Cambridge Analytica.

Professor Aleksandr Kogan a psychology professor at the University of Cambridge, requested user data from Facebook. Kogan created a research app to be used by psychologist entitled “thisisyourdigitallife.”  

Some 270,000 Facebook users downloaded the app. Each user consented to allow Kogan’s app access to their personal information provided by Facebook. The data included their “Likes,” the city they live in, etc. But what users were not consenting to was giving up the same information on their friends.

According to Facebook Kogan assured the company that the data would be cleansed of identifying information and only used for research purposes. This turned out not to be the case. Kogan shared the dataset with Christopher Wylie of Euonia Technologies and possibly others. Wylie is the whistleblower who blew up the whole scam. More on him later. The two men formed a third company, Global Science Research that, once again, assured Facebook that the data would be anonymized. Global Science Research then proceeded to build out SCL and Cambridge Analytica’s (CA) voter profiles using the data.

Kogan has spoken out claiming that he is being scapegoated. Kogan told BBC Radio 4 Today program of an environment of permissive data-gathering and lax privacy policies. “We thought we were acting perfectly appropriately. We thought we were doing something that was really normal,” said Kogan. “My view is that I’m being basically used as a scapegoat by both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.”

Cambridge Analytica

Lets get one thing straight before we go any further, CA could easily take the title of Department of Dirty Tricks. They are not the innocent data analysis firm they would have you believe.

According to the TheGuardian.com CA was caught bragging about using honey traps, fake news campaigns and operations with ex-spies to swing election campaigns around the world. CA executives were recorded on hidden camera by British news reporters talking about the dirty tricks they used to help clients.

CA CEO Alexander Nix was recorded telling reporters: “It sounds a dreadful thing to say, but these are things that don’t necessarily need to be true as long as they’re believed.” In addition Nix was known to refer to black clients as “niggers” in internal emails. Emails that were encrypted and programmed to self-destruct.

Nixon has since been suspended from the company and is under investigation.

Now if you want to know how dirty this whole thing gets a former employee of CA told CNN  former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon presided over a program at CA who’s purpose was collecting Facebook data to create voter profiles. CA was a prime data provider to the campaigns of Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.  Trump political appointee, Kelly Rzendzian, also worked at Cambridge Analytica.

Now remember that the original number is still only 270,000 users. Cambridge Analytica took it to the next level by hiring workers on Amazon Mechanical Turk (AMT). This platform allows gig workers, known as turkers, to complete small online tasks for near minimum wage or less. Turkers have been described as “volunteer slave labor.” CA hired these people to complete an online survey. According to the The Intercept’s investigation last year this system worked for Cambridge Analytica. Basically, Cambridge Analytica tricked turkers into a downloading a tool on Facebook that exposed both the worker, and their friends, in exchange for $1 or $2 to complete an online survey. According to the New York Times this trick was a massive success exposing over 50 million Facebook users to data collection.

Now back to Facebook. Andrew Zuckerberg’s company knew about this activity in 2015.  The Guardian reported in 2015 on Cambridge Analytica’s work on U.S. election campaigns. It revealed that the company drew on research “spanning tens of millions of Facebook users, harvested largely without their permission.” Kogan denied this was happening.

This was not a great concern for Facebook until 2015. That year Facebook updated its third-party API.  An API or application programming interface is just a piece of software that allows two software programs to talk to each other. Facebook moved to block access to the kind of massive data sets that Cambridge Analytica was collecting.  Although it drastically limited the data third party apps could access Facebook said nothing to users about the API misuse. Facebook also clamped down on any third-party app requesting more than the usual amount of data like public profile, list of friends, and email addresses from its users. But it all came too late.

After The Guardian published its article, Facebook demanded Global Science Research delete the data taken from Facebook users. Facebook has the right to delete data gathered by any app deemed to be “negatively impacting the platform.” Facebook believed that Kogan and SCL complied. They had not and no one from Facebook followed up.

Christopher Wylie

Christopher Wylie blew the lid off the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica data scandal. Wylie is being cheered for revealing how CA, according to the New York Times and the The Observer of London, of  improperly using and manipulating the Facebook data to influence elections. Wylie told the Observer “We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons.” According to Wylie himself he was the gay Canadian vegan who somehow ended up creating “Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare mindfuck tool”.

Now you know.

 

Congress, the Courts and Net Neutrality

The war for net neutrality has moved to the halls of Congress and the courtroom. Attorneys generals from 21 states and the District of Columbia have filed suit to overturn the FCC‘s new rules on net neutrality. But the battle is not just the states against the FCC. Technology companies and public interest groups have also filed law suits. Firefox browser maker Mozilla, the public-interest group Free Press and New America’s Open Technology Institute have all taken up the battle for net neutrality. Other major tech-industry companies including Facebook, Google and Netflix are getting in the fight along with other lobbying groups. 

The lawsuit, led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was kicked off in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. The petition asks the court to overturn the the FCC’s decision claiming the rule is “arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion” under the law. The suit also argues that the the FCC improperly reclassified broadband as a Title I information service, rather than a Title II service, because of  “an erroneous and unreasonable interpretation” of communications law. Title II services, also known as common carriers, are subject to greater regulation.

An example of a Title II service would be the U.S. Postal Service. The post office can’t deny service to people sending letters it disagrees with. Another example is the phone company. The phone company can’t refuse service to people based on their religious views. Everyone has the same right to pay to use the service. Until now ISPs were considered common carriers.

The lawsuits are a multi-faceted battle to preserve net-neutrality. In congress Democrats are working to undo the new rule. Democrats in the Senate announced that they were just one vote shy of winning a vote to restore Obama era net neutrality rules. All 49 Democrats have agreed to vote for the repeal of the new Internet regulations. On the Republican side Senator Susan Collins of Maine supports the action.  That leaves Democrats searching for the final Republican to cross the party line and join them. The idea is not so far fetched since the net neutrality issue is a hot button issue for young people and the mid-term elections are approaching.

“Given how quickly we have gotten 50, we have a real chance of succeeding,” said Senator minority leader Chuck Schumer of New York in a statement.

Even if the Democrats succeed in getting the votes the rules does not automatically change. The same bill would have to be introduced and passed in the House of Representatives. That body is controlled by the Republicans and House Speaker Paul Ryan could simply refuse to bring it to the floor for a vote.

Finally, there is Donald Trump. He has to sign the bill to reverse the FCC action. Although the White House has publicly said it supports the the FCC move Trump has never been sure what he wants to do about net neutrality.

According to his own tweets Trump was all in for net neutrality in 2014. Trump criticized Obama for attacking the Internet, and defended net neutrality as “the Fairness Doctrine.” Now that has changed and he is all for the new rules.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Net Neutrality: The War is Not Over!

The war for net neutrality is not over. Far from it, it’s just beginning. The latest move by the FCC, headed by Ajit Pai, is just the latest battle in a war that will eventually end up in the Supreme Court.

Pai and Republican members of the FCC voted to repeal Obama era rules meant to keep the Internet free and open to all. This is a critical moment in the history of the Internet.  The commoditization of information has taken a step forward. Pai and other pro-business Republicans claim the Obama administration had hijacked the Internet hindering innovation. The new FCC rules mean what you can access now depends how how much Internet you can afford. But defenders of the open Internet have taken up the call for battle.

States get involved.

Already one state has begun to fight for net neutrality within its borders. California, the home of Silicon Valley, has begun the process to enforce in-state net neutrality. State Senator Scott Wiener announced plans to introduce California’s own net neutrality rules. Wiener is considering the best regulatory options with plans to introduce a law early next year. Wiener wrote in Hackernoon, “By repealing net neutrality requirements, the Trump-controlled FCC is allowing Internet service providers to decide which websites will be easily accessible and which won’t. Providers are now free to manipulate web traffic on their networks, which means they can speed up or slow down traffic to certain sites and even block access.”

Weiner is contemplating requiring cable companies to accept state net neutrality laws as part of their agreement for doing business in California. California is one the world’s biggest economies and his action, if passed in a powerfully Democratic state, would force ISPs to accept net neutrality laws.

New York is also joining the battle. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has announced that he will sue the FCC to stop the new net neutrality laws. Schneiderman tweeted; “ll be leading a multi-state lawsuit bringing the resources of AGs across the country to bear in the fight to protect the Internet and the millions of Americans who rely on it.”

It’s unknown how many other states will be joining Schneiderman but several states joined a letter calling for a delay of the vote due to evidence of fake comments during the public feedback process. That letter included the signatures of 18 attorneys general from the states of Virginia, Delaware, Hawaii, California, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Iowa, Illinois, Maryland, Maine, Mississippi, Oregon, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Washington, Vermont and the District of Columbia. Schneiderman says he is expecting others to join that group.

Congress may act.

Member of congress could take action as well to stop the rule change. Under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), Congress is empowered to issue a resolution of disapproval that overrules the FCC’s decision. But don’t expect that to happen quickly if at all. The CRA only gives Congress a 60 day window in which to act. Any action must have presidential support or backing from two-thirds of the House and Senate. That has yet to be seen and Trump can’t decide if he likes net neutrality or not.

Democratic legislators Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusettes  and Rep. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania have introduced a resolution of disapproval after the FCC vote. Markey has already followed through with the support of 17 other Senators. Doyle said in statement, “I’ve tried repeatedly to convince Chairman Pai to abandon his plans to dismantle the Open Internet Order, most recently by organizing a letter from 118 Members of Congress urging him not to take this vote. And now that the FCC has voted to kill net neutrality and give ISPs a green light to control access to the Internet, I will introduce legislation under the Congressional Review Act to overturn the order and restore net neutrality.”

Doyle is not the only member of Congress that Pai simply ignored before voting to repeal net neutrality. Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Angus King, an Independent also from Maine  sent a last-minute letter asking Pai to cancel the net neutrality vote. “Repealing the FCC’s net neutrality rules will undermine long-standing protections that that have ensured the open internet as a powerful and transformative platform of innovation and economic opportunity,” they wrote. “We respectfully ask that the commission cancel the vote on the proposed order as scheduled and give Congress and the FCC the time to hold public hearings in 2018.” As you know Pai went ahead with the vote.

Not all Republicans are on board with the new net neutrality rules. Of the 239 Republicans in the House 107 have voiced their support for ending net neutrality. The position of the remaining members is not currently known. Some Republican lawmakers have been critical about the FCC’s process without specifically calling for a delay. Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota believes net neutrality belongs in the hands of lawmakers, not the FCC.

Next Battle Field: The Courts.

This battle is headed for the courts. Several advocacy groups, lacking faith in a Republican controlled Congress, are plotting their strategies to take on Pai and the FCC.

Critics claim they have a number of reasons to sue. These groups may argue that because the rule change comes only two years after Obama put them in place the decision is arbitrary.

Supporters of net neutrality are also arguing that ISPs should continue to be treated as Internet pipes or conduit that only carry data. This data includes movies and videos from major content providers like Netflix and Facebook updates. Advocates also argue that the FCC is wrong to categorize ISPs as as content providers, which are far less regulated. At least three public interest groups, Public Knowledge, Common Cause and FreePress are preparing to sue.

The Internet Association, a trade group and that counts Alphabet Inc., parent company of Google, Facebook Inc., and Pandora Media Inc. as members said it was reviewing Pai’s order “and weighing our legal options.”

Senior Vice President of Public Knowledge Harold Feld argues that Pai’s plan to re-categorize ISPs from common carriers, regulated as a public utility, to more lightly regulated “information services” will fail in court. Feld believes that the primary role of ISPs is delivering content. As carriers of data they are not offering email or online storage.”Their description of how the Internet service provider works is …. not true,” said Feld.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The War for Net Neutrality! Breaking It Down

The FCC voted along party lines to end the Obama administration’s rules on net neutrality. This war for a free and open Internet has been going on for some time. This is just the latest battle.  This decision is by no means the end of it. But what is happening and what does it mean for Black Internet users?

 

 

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is the idea that all data carried over the Internet is treated the same. That means that whether you’re streaming Netflix, shopping online, playing games or just reading the news, all the data is the same. Same speed and same price. For users of the Internet that meant that you could access any website and use as much data as you wanted. Before the change Internet service providers or ISPs like Comcast or Verizon could not deliberately speed up or slow down Internet traffic from specific websites or apps. But they did. The practice was known as throttling. The net neutrality rules, put in place by the Obama administration in 2015, were intended to keep the Internet open and fair. If you really want to understand how this works imagine sitting in traffic while those willing to pay whiz by you in the express lane. That is the basic idea behind the new rules of the Internet. 

How does that affect Black people?

People using the Internet, schools, small businesses and others are now subject to a potential new way of using the Internet and paying for it. You could be charged for high-speed streaming like Netflix. You could also be charged more for using data from some websites or apps over others. The rules used to say that ISPs could not favor one website over another for its content, the aptly named fast lane/slow lane Internet. Those rules just went out the window. Expect more throttling and slower web speeds and loading. Businesses with numerous computers and heavy data consumption could end up paying more. Start up businesses, especially minority owned, could be stifled by high data costs. According to MIT the repeal of net neutrality could be harmful to innovation. The exact opposite of what FCC chairman Ajit Pai claims.

Where this hurts black people, other minorities and the poor, is that just getting Internet could be costly. Already we are dealing with a lack of high speed Internet in poor and minority schools. As matter of fact the United States is already behind in both wireless and fixed wire Internet speeds.

Poor and minority children are already dealing with poor public education. That situation could be further eroded further by a lack of adequate access to the Internet. Classroom instruction will suffer as they fall further behind more affluent school districts. The digital divide is going to grow along with an under-educated under-class that is the source of poverty.

In some cities high speed Internet is nearly non-existent. Detroit for example is one of the worst cities in the country for high speed Internet especially for poor people. Repealing net neutrality is not going to help this situation.

Black people are avid users of mobile technology. The use of mobile devices could become more expensive. Shopping online, banking and other online activities could be slowed down or throttled. Another area of concern for black people is social and political activism.  A free and open Internet meant that no matter who you are you could get your message to the masses. These new rules could make it expensive for, or even censor, groups like #Black Lives Matter. Many believe that the Internet is key to free speech and the right of the public to know. 

Who is benefitting from this rule change?

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

Most people would agree that the telecom companies are benefitting the most from this rule change. FCC Chairman Pai, an Obama appointment and promoted to chairman by Trump, has claimed that the new rules will not affect a free and open and Internet. Pai has been a critic of the net neutrality rules and believes that the rules of the Obama administration allowed the government to “micro-manage the Internet.”

The telecom industry approves of Pai’s plan. Pai argued that earlier regulation was a drag on broadband investment and innovation. In a blog post, Comcast downplayed concerns, saying customers “will continue to enjoy all of the benefits of an open Internet today, tomorrow, and in the future. Period.” Yet at the same time it appears that Comcast is already planning to charge you for more Internet speed.

According to the Los Angeles Times  several companies have also been preparing for this moment for some time and the profits of priority handling of Internet content. These companies will not say what they consider a free and open Internet is nor will they promise to treat all data the same. Basically they are keeping quiet.

Telecommunications companies like AT&T, Charter Communications and Comcast have run full page ads in the Washington Post claiming to preserve an “open Internet.” These practices supposedly include “no blocking of legal content,” “not throttling” data speeds and “no unfair discrimination.” They never said you wouldn’t have to pay for it. 

Another winner of the repeal are the big content providers. Netflix, Google and other large content providers also have the money and the leverage of millions of subscribers to negotiate deals with ISPs. This would allow them access to the Internet fast lanes and potentially get a competitive advantage. Any deal that Netflix, Google or YouTube cuts with the ISPs could mean a price increase for the consumer. You lose.

Supporters of net neutrality believe that consumers could be charged extra to stream certain content if they don’t want to be hampered by network congestion or throttling. Others are warning that consumer choices of Internet service providers could shrink and prices of broadband service could increase due to lack of competition.

What is actually happening is that the FCC, under the Trump administration, has declared that information is free. Access to it is not. The Internet, until now, was regulated as a utility. This brings that to an end. Now the Internet belongs to private industry and they are willing to make you pay for access because that is what they do. They couldn’t care less about your business needs, your child’s education or your need to know…period. They have the capability to keep the ignorant ignorant, the poor poor and the the competition from competing.. They can slow down information or cut it off completely if you don’t pay. Corporations have scored a victory but the war is far from over. 

Next: The Net Neutrality War is Not Over!

 

 

Russians Fake and Manipulate Black Activism

#BlackLivesMatter and other groups have made themselves heard using social media. The Internet is an effective tool for Black voices to speak on issues important to our people.  But Black issues and causes have become caught up, subverted and even manipulated in the most  intense political storm this nation has even seen.

The Trump administration is being openly accused of collusion with Russia to manipulate the outcome of the recent the presidential election in Trump’s favor. Two of the Trump campaign’s closest advisors have already been indicted by the Bob Mueller investigation.

But, apparently the Russians did not stop at the presidential elections. According to recent news reports the “Blacktivist” website that was supposedly supporting African-American causes has been linked to the Russian government. The social media platform used both Facebook and Twitter  to instigate even more racial tensions in the U.S. during the recent presidential election.  The Twitter and Facebook account of “Blacktivist” has been handed over to Congress.

The “Blacktivist” Facebook account had 360,000 likes compared to only  301,000 likes for the verified #BlackLivesMatter account.

African-Americans following “Blacktivist,” were fed content that fueled the outrage over police encounters with Black motorists and police violence against African-Americans. The content used various techniques to stoke Black anger including video footage.

The manipulation of legitimate African-American anger also included promoting at least seven rallies and demonstrations in the U.S. in 2016.  These events included the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther Party and a protest march in Baltimore commemorating the death of Freddie Gray. Most events were legitimate protest rallies but the “Blacktivist” website worked to increase the turnout.

CNN reported one ad, and maybe more, were purchased by Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign. The ads referenced #BlackLivesMatter and targeted audiences in Ferguson, MO and Baltimore, MD. Both cities garnered worldwide attention for the large and violent protests after police shootings of Black men.

The “Blacktivist” Facebook account is included in over 470 Russian-linked accounts identified by Facebook and disclosed to Congress. The matching Twitter account, “@blacktivist,” was among another estimated 200 accounts Twitter identified with links to those found by Facebook.

But the Russian manipulation of African-American social and political issues went even further. According to Gizmodo.com a Russian news outlet, RBC, uncovered a scheme by the Kremlin to use Facebook to recruit Black activists in the U.S.

The scheme reportedly paid Black activist to organize #BlackLivesMatter rallies, self-defense classes and even produce content for Russian-owned sites denouncing police violence against Black citizens. The activist, contacted by Buzzfeed News, claim they were unaware they were being used and paid by the Russians.

Three Black activists were paid for activities that ended up on the BlackMatter US and Black Fist websites. Black activist Conrad James was contacted via a Facebook message from BlackMatters US last September. James was reportedly paid to organize two rallies in North Carolina. Omowale Adewale was also contacted this time through his Instagram account. Adewale, an MMA fighter, was recruited as a trainer for Black Fist. He was allegedly paid to teach self-defense classes to the black community. The Black Fist website touts the classes as organized  “By Black for Black.”

See also: These Americans Were Tricked Into Working For Russia. They Said They Had No Idea.

 

Breach Brief – U.S. Government, TimeWarner Cable, Instagram,

U.S. Government

The personal information of thousands of U.S. citizens and employees holding security clearances up to Top Secret have been compromised.

The security breach was revealed by Chris Vickery Director of cyber risk research firm UpGuard.  Vickery found the information of over 9,000 job application files on an un-secure Amazon Web Services S3 storage server that required no password to access.

The data included details about the past duties and responsibilities of thousands of federal employees. It is unclear if these people continue to work for the government, the U.S. Department of Defense and other agencies in the U.S. intelligence community.

Even so the information is extremely sensitive including personal information such as social security numbers, driver’s license and passport numbers, home addresses and other contact details. A leak of this magnitude represents a significant security failure that comes after a major government Office of Personnel Management (OPM) data breach in 2015.

TigerSwan, a US-based private security firm has pointed the finger of blame at TalentPen, a third-party vendor contracted by the company to process new job applicants.

In a statement Tiger Swan said, “We learned that our former recruiting vendor TalentPen used a bucket site on Amazon Web Services for the transfer of resumes to our secure server but never deleted them after our login credentials expired. Since we did not control or have access to this site, we were not aware that these documents were still on the web, much less, were publicly facing.

Among the hundreds of exposed files UpGuard discovered were the resumes of people with Top Secret U.S. security clearances, other documents revealed details about Iraqi and Afghan nationals who cooperated with U.S. forces. Some of those exposed by this data breach were involved in highly classified military operations. To add insult to injury UpGuard stated that the highly sensitive information remained exposed even after it notified TigerSwan about the leak.

TimeWarner Cable

Spectrum Communications,  owner of TimeWarner Cable, announced a data breach affecting the records of 4 million former customers.  TimeWarner Cable (TWC) customer’s data were left unsecured on a cloud server last month. TWC and said there is no evidence of illegal activity on its former customer’s accounts. The company did however urge subscribers using the MyTWC app to change their user names and passwords as a precaution.

TimeWarner Cable provides cable television service to major metropolitan areas including New York, Boston, Chicago, St. Louis and major part of the Carolinas and throughout the country.

The breach was uncovered by a third party firm attempting to resolve a data breach at another company. According to reports, BroadSoft, a TWC partner and global communications provider may have accidentally configured an Amazon Web Services server to allow public access.

According to Bob Diachenko, chief communications officer at security vendor Kromtech, the error exposed over 600GB of sensitive data to the public internet.

“It is most likely that they were forgotten by engineers and never closed the public configuration. This would allow anyone with an Internet connection to access extremely sensitive documents,” he said.

Instagram

A hack originally intended to target celebrities has instead impacted over six million Instagram user accounts.
Instagram sent out warnings of the hack after singer, Selena Gomez, appeared to be one of the first celebrity compromised. Hackers used a bug in the application programming interface (API), to access phone numbers and email addresses.

The news of the hack came after Instagram assured it users on August 30th that only celebrity accounts were targeted.

Instagram CTO, Mike Krieger released a statement acknowledging the scale of the breach; “We care deeply about the safety and security of the Instagram community, so we want to let you know that we recently discovered a bug on Instagram that could be used to access some people’s email address and phone number even if they were not public.”

Originally Instagram stated that only a “low percentage” of accounts were affected but quickly back tracked when hackers refuted the information. Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, then advised users how to protect themselves from such an attack. “Additionally, we’re encouraging you to report any unusual activity through our reporting tools,” Instagram said.

Some reports indicate that one of the accounts compromised includes that of President Donald Trump. That account is operated by White House social media team.

Silicon Valley Responds to Trump and Hate

Silicon Valley, the very heart and brain of the nation’s tech industry, is sending a strong message to both Donald Trump and white supremacist, NO!

Since the neo-nazi and alt-right demonstration in Charlottesville the nation has come to realization that hatred and bigotry is alive and well and supported from the highest office in the land. But tech companies are reacting to shut racist down

Apple CEO Tim Cook blasted Trump for his words supporting racist in an email to Apple employees. In the email cook said,  “I disagree with the president and others who believe that there is a moral equivalence between white supremacists and Nazis, and those who oppose them by standing up for human rights.” Cook continued on to say, “Equating the two runs counter to our ideals as Americans.”

Cook announced that Apple will donate $1 million each to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Anti-Defamation League.

Cook and Trump have locked horns before over his immigration and climate change positions. At the same time Cook has been working to influence Trump’s policies on issues from tax reform to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

Apple has also shut down Apple Pay on all white supremacist websites selling clothing and accessories.

Google, the world’s largest and most powerful search engine acted quickly to cancel the Daily Stormer neo-nazi website’s domain registration. Google acted in a mere 3 hours after it signed up. A Google spokesperson stated that the Daily Stormer was “violating our terms of service.” Web hosting service GoDaddy also rejected the neo-nazi website. GoDaddy tweeted that is giving the site 24 hours to move to another domain provider for violating of its terms and services.

White supremacist bands are also being silenced online. Billboard.com reported that Spotify is removing “hate rock” from its streaming service. Other tech companies and forums shutting racist out include Reddit which bans ban hate groups, gaming chat app Discord also shut down racist accounts and GoFundMe shut down a campaign to support the man accused of driving a car into protesters this weekend in Charlottesville killing one women and injuring 19 others.

PayPal all took steps to shut down white supremacist outlets and Twitter even suspended an account that provided updates for the site.

Other financial services companies are also rejecting hate group’s commerce en masse. Square, Visa and Discover Card have all stopped hate groups from using their service to accept payments. Other companies rejecting neo-nazi activity on their platforms include Cloudflare which stripped away the Daily Stormer security and protection against hackers

But can all this action to shut down hate really make a difference? Some believe that hatred will survive online regardless. Neo-Nazi and hate groups have already moved onto the dark web according to news accounts. In the debate on racism, hate and the groups that support it some believe that sending these groups underground is counter-productive. The argument is to keep these groups out in the open so they can be monitored closely. Others, including the ACLU, have argued in support of hate groups to express themselves freely. The ACLU was key in helping the neo-nazi demonstrators win a court battle for permission to carry out the Charlottesville march.

ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said in a statement that hateful and bigoted speech must be heard. “Racism and bigotry will not be eradicated if we merely force them underground,” Romero wrote. “Equality and justice will only be achieved if society looks such bigotry squarely in the eyes and renounces it.”

Facebook and Intel Report Diversity Improvement

Maxine Williams, Facebook’s Executive Diversity Chief

Facebook’s surprising diversity report showed marked improvement in hiring of women and minorities. While the report shows that Facebook is still overwhelmingly white and male the improvements show that Maxine Williams, Facebook’s Executive Diversity Chief, is having an effect on the company.   Facebook’s report revealed 35 percent of its staff  are women, up from 33 percent a year ago. The number of number of women in leadership positions is up a percent to 28 percent.

Even with these improvements retention of female employees in the tech sector is a another challenge. Women are leaving the industry after hire in the face or sexism and other bias. So these numbers for Facebook can only be considered an improvement if women stay on with the company.

The report shows an increase of Hispanic employees of 4 to 5 percent and African-Americans by 2 to 3 percent. However the guys at the top are still white men making up 71 percent of the company leadership. No change there.  The rest of the company leadership is held by Asians at 21 percent with other groups holding only 2 to 3 percent.

How is Williams making change happen? Along side the diversity report Williams blogged about initiatives she believes are improving Facebook’s hiring and workplace culture. She pointed out the  “Diverse Slate Approach,” which encourages consideration of applicants who don’t look like the hiring managers.  According to Williams Facebook has discovered that “the more people you interview who don’t look or think like you, the more likely you are to hire someone from a diverse background.”  Facebook’s “Managing Inclusion,” training program teaches managers to consider what issues affect under-represented groups.  Facebook believes that this training helps to build an understanding of how these employees or applicants arrived in tech the industry and what obstacles remain.

Williams believes Facebook is moving in the right direction but said, “We aren’t where we’d like to be.”

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich

Another major tech company is also touting its diversity improvements.  Intel has reported that its diversity program is actually two years ahead of schedule.  In a recent blog post Intel CEO Brian Krzanich claims Intel is two years ahead of its original diversity plan. “We set out to achieve by 2020 an inclusive workforce that reflects the diversity we see every day in the world around us,” he wrote. “Doing this would bring the number of female, Hispanic, African-American and Native American employees in Intel’s 50,000-strong U.S. workforce to full representation.” According to Krzanich the goal is now moved up to 2018.

Krzanich, in a stand against racism, resigned from President Trump’s American Manufacturing Council after comments the president made about the events in Charlottesville that one left one woman dead. According to Krzanich he wants to “…call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues…”

Intel’s mid-year report shows the company’s five-year plan is on track to bring full representation of  women, African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans in both technical and non-technical jobs. According to Intel full representation is defined as the “full market availability of women and underrepresented minorities.”

“In December of 2014, our gap to full representation was 2,300 employees. Today that gap has narrowed to 801 people, a 65 percent improvement, said Krzanich.

But like Facebook and other tech companies white and Asian men still represent  almost all top management positions. More than 90 percent of Intel’s mid to senior-level technical roles are white and Asian men.  Intel is also dealing with a retention problem with women and minorities. The company says it has added “diversity playbooks” and other programs to help managers hire and retain under-represented groups.

Although diversity in the tech sector is a real issue, and progress is epically slow, there is progress. According to workplace culture and company review platform Comparably  companies are doing better.

Comparably has come out with a list of the top ten companies that are doing better than most in the area of workplace diversity. The scores of these companies are on a 0-100 scale and based how female employees rate their experience at the company. The diversity score is based on how employees of color rate their experience at a company. Here is Comparably’s list for women.

For diversity

 

 

 

Internet Service Providers Can Sell Your Data

 FBI Director James Comey said, “There is no longer absolute privacy in the United States.” In the age of information everything you say do, write or watch on television is recorded somewhere. And now Congress is letting your internet service provider sell your personal data including your internet activity.

On Friday, the Senate blocked the implementation Obama administration rules stopping internet service providers like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon from selling customers internet browsing history and other data. The rule itself was scheduled to go into effect next year. It would have been a significant wall to ISP’s efforts to sell your personal data and combine that data with your other services to target advertising at you.

Many people fail to realize, or have become accustomed, to the level of tracking that is done by major corporations. For example Facebook tracks everything users do on their website and beyond, everything! And so do many other social media sites. This move lets ISP ‘s do the same.

But ISP’s have a bit of an advantage over sites like Facebook. For example many ISP’s offer bundled services. You can get television, internet, telephone and even cell phone service and home security in one package and one price.   This basically allows them to create a profile of not only what you watch on television, but who you call or calls you, your emails, your web searches, online activity and your mobile activity on your smartphone.

If you use Verizon your profile just expanded significantly. The Senate vote cleared the way for Verizon to link up all its databases. These databases contain customer information from AOL which Verizon purchased in 2015 for $4 billion. Soon that database will get even bigger if the sale of Yahoo! to Verizon goes through. 

Since the election of Donald Trump Republicans have worked to undo regulations imposed under President Barack Obama. All 50 Republicans voted in favor of killing the rule while 46 Democrats and two independents voted against.