Government

Senate Passes Bill Making Internet Tax Ban Permanent (consumerist.com) 37

kheldan writes: Nearly two decades ago, Congress passed the first Internet Tax Freedom Act, establishing that — with a handful of grandfathered exceptions — local, state, and federal governments couldn't impose taxes on Internet access. Problem is, that law has had to be renewed over and over, each time with an expiration date. But today, the U.S. Senate finally passed a piece of legislation that would make the tax ban permanent.
Government

FAA Eases Drone Restrictions Around Washington, DC (roboticstrends.com) 57

An anonymous reader writes with a link to Robotics Trends, which reports that: After doubling the radius of the "no-drone zone" from 15 miles to 30 miles outside of Washington, D.C. in 2015, the FAA announced drones can now fly in the "outer ring" of the Special Flight Rules Area. This means drones can operate between a 15- to 30-mile radius outside of the nation's capitol. Drones that fly between the 15- to 30-mile radius still have to operate under specific conditions: drones must weigh less than 55 pounds, be registered and marked, fly under 400 feet, stay in the operator's line of sight, only fly in clear conditions, and avoid other aircraft.
Government

Putin's Internet Czar Wants To Ban Windows On Government PCs 300

SmartAboutThings writes: The Russian government is allegedly looking to ban Microsoft's Windows operating system, increase taxes on foreign technology companies, develop its homegrown OS and encourage local tech companies to grow. All these proposals comes from German Klimenko, Vladimir Putin's new 'internet czar, as Bloomberg describes him. In a 90-minute interview, Klimenko said forcing Google and Apple to pay more taxes and banning Microsoft Windows from government computers are necessary measures, as he is trying to raise taxes on U.S. companies, thus helping local Russian competitors such as Yandex and Mail.ru.
AI

NHTSA Gives Green Light To Self-Driving Cars 217

New submitter tyme writes: Reuters reports that the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) told Google that it would recognize the artificial intelligence in a self-driving car as the "driver" (rather than any of the occupants). The letter also says that NHTSA will write safety rules for self-driving cars in the next six months, paving the way for deployment of self-driving cars in large numbers.
Encryption

Federal Bill Could Override State-Level Encryption Bans (thestack.com) 135

An anonymous reader writes: A new bill has been proposed in Congress today by Representatives Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.) which looks to put a stop to any pending state-level legislation that could result in misguided encryption measures. The Ensuring National Constitutional Rights of Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016 comes as a response to state-level encryption bills which have already been proposed in New York state and California. These near-identical proposals argued in favour of banning the sale of smartphones sold in the U.S. that feature strong encryption and cannot be accessed by the manufacturer. If these bills are passed, current smartphones, including iPhone and Android models, would need to be significantly redesigned for sale in these two states. Now Lieu and Farenthold are making moves to prevent the passing of the bills because of their potential impact on trade [PDF] and the competitiveness of American firms.
Security

Hackers Leak DHS Staff Directory, Claim FBI Is Next (csoonline.com) 81

itwbennett writes: On Sunday, the name, title, email address, and phone number of more than 9,000 DHS employees, with titles ranging from engineers, to security specialists, program analysts, InfoSec and IT, all the way up to director level was posted on Twitter. 'The account went on to claim that an additional data dump focused on 20,000 FBI employees was next,' writes CSO's Steve Ragan. The hacker told Motherboard that the data was obtained by "compromising the email account of a DoJ employee, although he would not elaborate on how that account was accessed in the first place."
Government

UK Wants Authority To Serve Warrants In U.S. (usatoday.com) 144

schwit1 writes with this news, as reported by USA Today: British and U.S. officials have been negotiating a plan that could allow British authorities to directly serve wiretap orders on U.S. communications companies in criminal and national security inquiries, U.S. officials confirmed Thursday. The talks are aimed at allowing British authorities access to a range of data, from interceptions of live communications to archived emails involving British suspects, according to the officials, who are not authorized to comment publicly. ... Under the proposed plan, British authorities would not have access to records of U.S. citizens if they emerged in the British investigations. Congressional approval would be required of any deal negotiated by the two countries.
Government

Free State Project Reaches Goal of 20,000 Signups (freestateproject.org) 459

Okian Warrior writes: As a followup to our recent story, at 11AM Tuesday, Free State Project president Carla Gericke announced the FSP had reached its goal of recruiting 20,000 participants. The 20,000 mark is significant, because it 'triggers the move' – the mass migration of the Free State Project participants who have all agreed to move to New Hampshire within the next five years. So far, almost 2,000 have already relocated to the state.
Government

Marco Rubio Wants To Permanently Extend NSA Mass Surveillance (nationaljournal.com) 350

SonicSpike writes: Marco Rubio wants Congress to permanently extend the authorities governing several of the National Security Agency's controversial spying programs, including its mass surveillance of domestic phone records. The Florida Republican and 2016 presidential hopeful penned an op-ed on Tuesday condemning President Obama's counterterrorism policies and warning that the U.S. has not learned the "fundamental lessons of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001." Rubio called on Congress to permanently reauthorize core provisions of the post-9/11 USA Patriot Act, which are due to sunset on June 1 of this year and provide the intelligence community with much of its surveillance power. "This year, a new Republican majority in both houses of Congress will have to extend current authorities under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and I urge my colleagues to consider a permanent extension of the counterterrorism tools our intelligence community relies on to keep the American people safe," Rubio wrote in a Fox News op-ed.
Piracy

All 12 Member Countries Sign Off On the TPP (freezenet.ca) 186

Dangerous_Minds writes: News is surfacing that the TPP has officially been signed by all 12 member countries. This marks the beginning of the final step towards ratification. Freezenet has a quick rundown of what copyright provisions are contained in the agreement, including traffic shaping, site blocking, enforcement of copyright when infringement is "imminent," and a government mandate for ISPs to install backdoors for the purpose of tracking copyright infringement on the Internet.
Bug

IRS Computer Problems Shut Down Tax Return E-file System (foxnews.com) 176

Mr.Intel writes: The IRS stopped accepting electronically filed tax returns Wednesday because of problems with some of its computer systems. The outage could affect refunds, but the agency said it doesn't anticipate "major disruptions." A "hardware failure" forced the shutdown of several tax processing systems, including the e-file system, the IRS said in a statement. The IRS.gov website remains available, but "where's my refund" and other services are not working. Some systems will be out of service at least until Thursday, the agency said. "The IRS is currently in the process of making repairs and working to restore normal operations as soon as possible," the IRS said.
Mars

Congressional Testimony Says NASA Has No Plan For the Journey To Mars (blastingnews.com) 310

MarkWhittington writes: Testimony at a hearing before the House Science Committee's Subcommittee on Space suggested that NASA's Journey to Mars lacks a plan to achieve the first human landing on the Red Planet, almost six years after President Obama announced the goal on April 15, 2010. Moreover, two of the three witnesses argued that a more realistic near term goal for the space agency would be a return to the moon. The moon is not only a scientifically interesting and potentially commercially profitable place to go but access to lunar water, which can be refined into rocket fuel, would make the Journey to Mars easier and cheaper.
Businesses

Senators Blast Comcast, Other Cable Firms For "Unfair Billing Practices" (arstechnica.com) 176

An anonymous reader writes: Six Democratic US senators [Wednesday] criticized Comcast and other TV and broadband providers for charging erroneous fees, such as cable modem rental fees billed to customers who bought their own modems. The senators have written a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler asking the commission to 'stop unfair billing practices.'.....Last year, more than 30 percent of complaints to the FCC about Internet service and 38 percent of complaints about TV service were about billing...
United States

Former DoE Employee Ensnared By Secret-Selling Sting Pleads Guilty (washingtonpost.com) 40

mdsolar writes: A former Energy Department employee accused of attempting to infiltrate the agency's computer system to steal nuclear secrets and sell them to a foreign government pleaded guilty Tuesday to a reduced charge of attempting to damage protected government computers in an email "spear-phishing attack." Charles Harvey Eccleston, a former employee at the department and at the independent Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), was arrested March 27 by Philippine authorities after an undercover FBI sting operation. Eccleston, 62, a U.S. citizen who had been living in the Philippines since 2011, was "terminated" from his job at the NRC in 2010, according to the Justice Department. In January 2015, the department said, he targeted more than 80 Energy Department employees in Washington at four national nuclear labs with emails containing what he thought were links to malicious websites that, if activated, could infect and damage computers.
United States

Journalist Claims Secret US Flight 'To Capture Snowden' Overflew Scottish Airspace (thenational.scot) 198

schwit1 writes with a story in The National (a newspaper which makes no bones about it support for an independent Scotland) describing the charge laid by a Scottish journalist that in 2013 a secret U.S. flight involving a plane involved in CIA renditions crossed Scottish airspace, as part of a secret plan to capture whistleblower Edward Snowden. Alex Salmond, then Scotland's First Minister, is calling for transparency with regard to the knowledge that the UK government had of the flight and its mission. According to the report, The plane, which passed above the Outer Hebrides, the Highlands and Aberdeenshire, was dispatched from the American east coast on June 24 2013, the day after Snowden left Hong Kong for Moscow. The craft was used in controversial US 'rendition' missions. Reports by Scottish journalist Duncan Campbell claim the aircraft, traveling well above the standard aviation height at 45,000 feet and without a filed flight plan, was part of a mission to capture Snowden following his release of documents revealing mass surveillance by US and UK secret services. ... [N977GA, the aircraft named as involved in this flight] was previously identified by Dave Willis in Air Force Monthly as an aircraft used for CIA rendition flights of US prisoners. This included the extradition of cleric Abu Hamza from the UK. Snowden accused the Danish Government of conspiring in his arrest. In response to flight reports, he said: "Remember when the Prime Minister Rasmussen said Denmark shouldn't respect asylum law in my case? Turns out he had a secret."
Democrats

Perfect Coin-Toss Record Broke 6 Clinton-Sanders Deadlocks In Iowa (marketwatch.com) 634

schwit1 writes: While it was hard to call a winner between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders last night, it's easy to say who was luckier. The race between the Democrat presidential hopefuls was so tight in the Iowa caucus Monday that in at least six precincts, the decision on awarding a county delegate came down to a coin toss. And Clinton won all six, media reports said.
Transportation

The Feds' Freeway Font Flip-Flop (citylab.com) 182

McGruber writes: Citylab has the news that the U.S. Federal Highway Administration is revoking its 2004 approval of the "Clearview" font for road signs. Clearview was made to improve upon its predecessor, a 1940s font called Highway Gothic. Certain letters appeared to pose visibility problems, especially those with tight interstices (or internal spacing)—namely lowercase e, a, and s. At night, any of these reflective letters might appear to be a lowercase o in the glare of headlights. By opening up these letterforms, and mixing lowercase and uppercase styles, Clearview aimed to improve how these reflective highway signs read.

Now, just 12 years later, the FHWA is reversing itself: "After more than a decade of analysis, we learned—among other things—that Clearview actually compromises the legibility of signs in negative-contrast color orientations, such as those with black letters on white or yellow backgrounds like Speed Limit and Warning signs," said Doug Hecox, a FHWA spokesperson, in an email. The FHWA has not yet provided any research on Clearview that disproves the early claims about the font's benefits. But there is at least one factor that clearly distinguishes it from Highway Gothic: cost. Jurisdictions that adopt Clearview must purchase a standard license for type, a one-time charge of between $175 (for one font) and $795 (for the full 13-font typeface family) and up, depending on the number of workstations.

That doesn't seems like a very good use of tax money, for something that can be nondestructively reused once created.
Communications

U.S. Forces Viewed Encrypted Israeli Drone Feeds (theintercept.com) 49

iceco2 links to The Intercept's report that the U.S. and UK intelligence forces have been (or at least were) intercepting positional data as well as imagery from Israeli drones and fighters, through a joint program dubbed "Anarchist," based on the island of Cyprus. Among the captured images that the Intercept has published, based on data provided by Edward Snowden, are ones that appear to show weaponized drones, something that the U.S. military is well-known for using, but that the IDF does not publicly acknowledge as part of its own arsenal. Notes iceco2: U.S. spying on allies is nothing new. It is surprising to see the ease with which encrypted Israeli communications were intercepted. As always, it wasn't the crypto which was broken -- just the lousy method it was applied. Ars Technica explains that open-source software, including ImageMagick was central to the analysis of the captured data.
United States

Air Force Firewall Now Designated a Weapons System (gazette.com) 137

An anonymous reader writes with a report from the Colorado Springs Gazette that the U.S. Air Force Space Command has declared its first cyber "weapons system" operational. The weapon, deemed fully operational this month, is basically a big firewall designed to protect the Air Force's internal 1 million-user network from hackers. It will be a hot topic at the Rocky Mountain Cyber Symposium, which is expected to draw hundreds of computer experts to The Broadmoor for a four-day confab starting Monday." More from the article about why a firewall would be called a weapon: The biggest reason for the weaponization push is financial: When it comes to budget battles, weapons, even those with a keyboard and a mouse, get cash from Congress. "Designating something as a weapons system really does help us justify our funding," Col. Pamela Wooley, who commands the Alabama-based 26th Cyberspace Operations Group, which includes the new weapon.

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