Businesses

Leaked Recording: Inside Apple's Global War On Leakers (theoutline.com) 81

Reader citadrianne writes: A recording of an internal briefing at Apple earlier this month obtained by The Outline sheds new light on how far the most valuable company in the world will go to prevent leaks about new products. The briefing, titled 'Stopping Leakers -- Keeping Confidential at Apple,' was led by Director of Global Security David Rice, Director of Worldwide Investigations Lee Freedman, and Jenny Hubbert, who works on the Global Security communications and training team. According to the hour-long presentation, Apple's Global Security team employs an undisclosed number of investigators around the world to prevent information from reaching competitors, counterfeiters, and the press, as well as hunt down the source when leaks do occur. Some of these investigators have previously worked at U.S. intelligence agencies like the National Security Administration (NSA), law enforcement agencies like the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service, and in the U.S. military. Top-notch reporting from The Outline, consider reading the full report. During the briefing, a company executive said they have been able to find two employees who leaked information to media.
The Military

Pentagon Cyberweapons 'Disappointing' Against ISIS (nytimes.com) 118

An anonymous reader quotes the New York Times: It has been more than a year since the Pentagon announced that it was opening a new line of combat against the Islamic State, directing Cyber Command, then six years old, to mount computer-network attacks... "In general, there was some sense of disappointment in the overall ability for cyberoperations to land a major blow against ISIS," or the Islamic State, said Joshua Geltzer, who was the senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council until March. "This is just much harder in practice than people think..."

Even one of the rare successes against the Islamic State belongs at least in part to Israel, which was America's partner in the attacks against Iran's nuclear facilities. Top Israeli cyberoperators penetrated a small cell of extremist bombmakers in Syria months ago, the officials said. That was how the United States learned that the terrorist group was working to make explosives that fooled airport X-ray machines and other screening by looking exactly like batteries for laptop computers... The information helped prompt a ban in March on large electronic devices in carry-on luggage on flights from 10 airports in eight Muslim-majority countries to the United States and Britain.

Citing military officials, the Times also reports that "locking Islamic State propaganda specialists out of their accounts -- or using the coordinates of their phones and computers to target them for a drone attack -- is now standard operating procedure."
The Almighty Buck

Air Force Budget Reveals How Much SpaceX Undercuts Launch Prices (arstechnica.com) 96

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In 2014, the U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a report on cost estimates for the U.S. Air Force's program to launch national security payloads, which at the time consisted of a fleet of rockets maintained and flown entirely by United Launch Alliance (ULA). The report was critical of the non-transparent nature of ULA's launch prices and noted that the government "lacked sufficient knowledge to negotiate fair and reasonable launch prices" with the monopoly. At around the same time, the new space rocket company SpaceX began to aggressively pursue the opportunity to launch national security payloads for the government. SpaceX claimed to offer a substantially lower price for delivering satellites into various orbits around Earth. But because of the lack of transparency, comparing prices was difficult. The Air Force recently released budget estimates for fiscal year 2018, and these include a run out into the early 2020s. For these years, the budget combines the fixed price rocket and ELC contract costs into a single budget line. (See page 109 of this document). They are strikingly high. According to the Air Force estimate, the "unit cost" of a single rocket launch in fiscal year 2020 is $422 million, and $424 million for a year later. SpaceX sells basic commercial launches of its Falcon 9 rocket for about $65 million. But, for military launches, there are additional range costs and service contracts that add tens of millions of dollars to the total price. It therefore seems possible that SpaceX is taking a loss or launching at little or no profit to undercut its rival and gain market share in the high-volume military launch market. Elon Musk retweeted the article, adding "$300M cost diff between SpaceX and Boeing/Lockheed exceeds avg value of satellite, so flying with SpaceX means satellite is basically free."
Businesses

Apple CEO Tim Cook Shares His Experience Of Working With President Donald Trump (bloomberg.com) 350

In a wide-ranging interview with Bloomberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook talked about his experience of working with Donald Trump. He said: I feel a great responsibility as an American, as a CEO, to try to influence things in areas where we have a level of expertise. I've pushed hard on immigration. We clearly have a very different view on things in that area. I've pushed on climate. We have a different view there. There are clearly areas where we're not nearly on the same page. We're dramatically different. I hope there's some areas where we're not. His focus on jobs is good. So we'll see. Pulling out of the Paris climate accord was very disappointing. I felt a responsibility to do every single thing I could for it not to happen. I think it's the wrong decision. If I see another opening on the Paris thing, I'm going to bring it up again. At the end of the day, I'm not a person who's going to walk away and say, "If you don't do what I want, I leave." I'm not on a council, so I don't have those kind of decisions. But I care deeply about America. I want America to do well. America's more important than bloody politics from my point of view. Let me give you an example of this. Veterans Affairs has struggled in providing health care to veterans. We have an expertise in some of the things at the base level that they're struggling with. So we're going to work with them. I could give a crap about the politics of it. I want to help veterans. My dad's a veteran. My brother served. We have so many military folks in Apple. These folks deserve great health care. So we're going to keep helping.
AI

US Weighs Restricting Chinese Investment In Artificial Intelligence (reuters.com) 64

An anonymous reader shares a Reuters report: The United States appears poised to heighten scrutiny of Chinese investment in Silicon Valley to better shield sensitive technologies seen as vital to U.S. national security, current and former U.S. officials tell Reuters. Of particular concern is China's interest in fields such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, which have increasingly attracted Chinese capital in recent years. The worry is that cutting-edge technologies developed in the United States could be used by China to bolster its military capabilities and perhaps even push it ahead in strategic industries. The U.S. government is now looking to strengthen the role of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), the inter-agency committee that reviews foreign acquisitions of U.S. companies on national security grounds. An unreleased Pentagon report, viewed by Reuters, warns that China is skirting U.S. oversight and gaining access to sensitive technology through transactions that currently don't trigger CFIUS review.
The Military

DARPA Funds Development of New Type of Processor (eetimes.com) 84

The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) is funding a completely new kind of non-von-Neumann processor called a HIVE -- Hierarchical Identify Verify Exploit. According to EE Times, the funding is to the tune of $80 million over four-and-a-half years, and Intel and Qualcomm are participating in the project, along with a national laboratory, a university and defense contractor North Grumman. From the report: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (Richland, Washington) and Georgia Tech are involved in creating software tools for the processor while Northrup Grumman will build a Baltimore center that uncovers and transfers the Defense Departments graph analytic needs for the what is being called the world's first graph analytic processor (GAP). Graph analytic processors do not exist today, but they theoretically differ from CPUs and GPUs in key ways. First of all, they are optimized for processing sparse graph primitives. Because the items they process are sparsely located in global memory, they also involve a new memory architecture that can access randomly placed memory locations at ultra-high speeds (up to terabytes per second). Together, the new arithmetic-processing-unit (APU) optimized for graph analytics plus the new memory architecture chips are specified by DARPA to use 1,000-times less power than using today's supercomputers. The participants, especially Intel and Qualcomm, will also have the rights to commercialize the processor and memory architectures they invent to create a HIVE. The graph analytics processor is needed, according to DARPA, for Big Data problems, which typically involve many-to-many rather than many-to-one or one-to-one relationships for which today's processors are optimized. A military example, according to DARPA, might be the the first digital missives of a cyberattack.
Space

SpaceX Will Launch Secretive X-37B Spaceplane's Next Mission (latimes.com) 83

schwit1 quotes a report from Los Angeles Times: SpaceX will launch the Air Force's X-37B experimental spaceplane later this year, in the military's latest vote of confidence in the Elon Musk-led space company. This will be the first time SpaceX has launched the uncrewed robotic vehicle. United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp., has launched the spaceplane's previous four missions atop one of its Atlas V rockets. The Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, which is responsible for the X-37B's experimental operations, said it was "very excited" for the fifth flight, which will test how special electronics and heat pipes will fare during a long-duration space mission. The Air Force has two of the spaceplanes, which look like miniature versions of the space shuttle and are known officially as X-37B Orbital Test Vehicles. The first X-37B was launched in 2010.
Government

DOJ Charges Federal Contractor With Leaking Classified Info To Media (thehill.com) 241

schwit1 quotes a report from The Hill: The Department of Justice charged 25-year-old government contractor Reality Leigh Winner with sharing top secret material with a media outlet, prosecutors announced in a press release Monday. Court documents filed by the government don't specify which media outlet received the materials allegedly leaked by Winner, but NBC News reported that the material went to the Intercept online news outlet. The Intercept published a top secret NSA report Monday that alleged Russian military intelligence launched a 2016 cyberattack on a voting software company. Details on the report published by The Intercept suggest that it was created on May 5, 2017 -- the same day prosecutors say the materials Winner is charged with sharing were created. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on whether Winner is accused of sharing the report published by the Intercept. Last month, Winner allegedly "printed and improperly removed classified intelligence reporting, which contained classified national defense information" before mailing the materials to an unnamed online news outlet a few days later, according to prosecutors.
Privacy

Top-Secret NSA Report Details Russian Hacking Effort Days Before 2016 Election (theintercept.com) 456

Russian hacking groups played a larger role in the 2016 election than anyone realized, according to a highly-classified NSA document published today in The Intercept. The document reveals that a Russian intelligence operation sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials days before the election, which ran through a hack of a U.S. voting software supplier. The Russian cyber espionage operation was functional for months before the 2016 U.S. election. From the report: It states unequivocally in its summary statement that it was Russian military intelligence, specifically the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, that conducted the cyber attacks described in the document: "Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate actors ... executed cyber espionage operations against a named U.S. company in August 2016, evidently to obtain information on elections-related software and hardware solutions. ... The actors likely used data obtained from that operation to ... launch a voter registration-themed spear-phishing campaign targeting U.S. local government organizations." This NSA summary judgment is sharply at odds with Russian President Vladimir Putin's denial last week that Russia had interfered in foreign elections: "We never engaged in that on a state level, and have no intention of doing so." Putin, who had previously issued blanket denials that any such Russian meddling occurred, for the first time floated the possibility that freelance Russian hackers with "patriotic leanings" may have been responsible. The NSA report, on the contrary, displays no doubt that the cyber assault was carried out by the GRU.
The Military

Conch Shells Inspire Next Generation Helmets, Body Armor (rdmag.com) 44

New submitter omaha393 writes: Researchers at MIT used a 3D printing approach to develop a biomimetic composite capable of withstanding 70-85% more resistance than typical helmet designs. The material was manufactured using a composite of hard and soft printable polymers called VeroMagenta and TangoBlackPlus. The polymers were printed to overlay in a specific pattern that mimics conch shell molecular hierarchy, thus preventing cracks from spreading and offering a substantially more crack-resistant material. The researchers propose the material can be custom tailored and readily printed for future helmets and body armor manufacturing. The study has been published in Advanced Materials.
The Military

US Interceptor Missile Successfully Intercepts Test ICBM, Says Pentagon (go.com) 136

An anonymous reader writes: The Pentagon has confirmed that the U.S. interceptor missile it launched has successfully intercepted the test ICBM fired from the Marshall Islands. From an ABC News report detailing the intercept test: "The ground-based interceptor launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California shortly after 3:30 p.m. EST Tuesday. The U.S. will launch an ICBM-class target from the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, 4,200 miles away. If successful, the kill vehicle, or intercept, will collide with the ICBM test target midcourse over the Pacific Ocean later today. The ground-based interceptor system is mainly designed to counter a North Korean missile threat, but a U.S. official said Tuesday's test has been planned for years and is coincidental to North Korea's increased missile testing this year. This will be the 18th test of the ground-based interceptor. The last one, in June 2014, was the first success since 2008. The system is nine for 17 since 1999 with other types of target missiles. An ICBM target has never been tested before."
AI

Is China Outsmarting America in AI? (nytimes.com) 163

An anonymous reader shares an NYTimes article: Beijing is backing its artificial intelligence push with vast sums of money. Having already spent billions on research programs, China is readying a new multibillion-dollar initiative to fund moonshot projects, start-ups and academic research (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source), all with the aim of growing China's A.I. capabilities, according to two professors who consulted with the government on the plan. China's private companies are pushing deeply into the field as well, though the line between government and private in China sometimes blurs. Baidu -- often called the Google of China and a pioneer in artificial-intelligence-related fields, like speech recognition -- this year opened a joint company-government laboratory partly run by academics who once worked on research into Chinese military robots. China is spending more just as the United States cuts back. This past week, the Trump administration released a proposed budget that would slash funding for a variety of government agencies that have traditionally backed artificial intelligence research.
Government

US Senators Propose Bug Bounties For Hacking Homeland Security (cnn.com) 66

An anonymous reader quotes CNN: U.S. senators want people to hack the Department of Homeland Security. On Thursday, Senators Maggie Hassan, a Democrat and Republican Rob Portman introduced the Hack DHS Act to establish a federal bug bounty program in the DHS... It would be modeled off the Department of Defense efforts, including Hack the Pentagon, the first program of its kind in the federal government. Launched a year ago, Hack the Pentagon paved the way for more recent bug bounty events including Hack the Army and Hack the Air Force...

The Hack the DHS Act establishes a framework for bug bounties, including establishing "mission-critical" systems that aren't allowed to be hacked, and making sure researchers who find bugs in DHS don't get prosecuted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. "It's better to find vulnerabilities through someone you have engaged with and vetted," said Jeff Greene, the director of government affairs and policy at security firm Symantec. "In an era of constrained budgets, it's a cost-effective way of identifying vulnerabilities"... If passed, it would be among the first non-military bug bounty programs in the public sector.

United States

Leaked 'Standing Rock' Documents Reveal Invasive Counterterrorism Measures (theintercept.com) 310

An anonymous reader writes: "A shadowy international mercenary and security firm known as TigerSwan targeted the movement opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline with military-style counterterrorism measures," reports The Intercept, decrying "the fusion of public and private intelligence operations." Saying the private firm started as a war-on-terror contractor for the U.S. military and State Department, the site details "sweeping and invasive" surveillance of protesters, citing over 100 documents leaked by one of the firm's contractors.

The documents show TigerSwan even havested information about the protesters from social media, and "provide extensive evidence of aerial surveillance and radio eavesdropping, as well as infiltration of camps and activist circles... The leaked materials not only highlight TigerSwan's militaristic approach to protecting its client's interests but also the company's profit-driven imperative to portray the nonviolent water protector movement as unpredictable and menacing enough to justify the continued need for extraordinary security measures... Internal TigerSwan communications describe the movement as 'an ideologically driven insurgency with a strong religious component' and compare the anti-pipeline water protectors to jihadist fighters."

The Intercept reports that recently "the company's role has expanded to include the surveillance of activist networks marginally related to the pipeline, with TigerSwan agents monitoring 'anti-Trump' protests from Chicago to Washington, D.C., as well as warning its client of growing dissent around other pipelines across the country." They also report that TigerSwan "has operated without a license in North Dakota for the entirety of the pipeline security operation."
Power

New Solar Plane Plans Non-Stop Flight Around The World (bloomberg.com) 35

An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg: [A] Russian tycoon and his Renova Group plan a record-breaking effort to send a plane around the world nonstop using only the power of the sun. If all goes well, a single pilot will fly for five days straight at altitudes of up to 10 miles, about a third higher than commercial airliners. The project isn't just a stunt. The glider-style airplane with a 36-meter (120-foot) wingspan will be a test of technologies that are set to be used to build new generations of autonomous craft for the military and business, say aerospace experts. They will fly continuously, have far greater reach and control than satellites and expand broadcast, communication and spying capabilities around the globe... "Our flight should prove that it's possible to make long-distance flights using solar energy," said Mikhail Lifshitz, Renova's director of high-tech asset development and a qualified pilot-instructor. A "flying laboratory" test-plane will be ready by year-end, Lifshitz said in an interview.
The plane will conserve power by slowly gliding down from the high altitudes at night -- without ever touching the ground. In comparison a solar plane (partially funded by Google) already circled the earth last year -- but it took 22 days, and made 17 different stops.
Government

Proposed Active-Defense Bill Would Allow Destruction of Data, Use of Beacon Tech (onthewire.io) 69

Trailrunner7 quotes a report from On the Wire: A bill that would allow victims of cybercrime to use active defense techniques to stop attacks and identify attackers has been amended to require victims to notify the FBI of their actions and also add an exemption to allow victims to destroy their data once they locate it on an attacker's machine. The Active Cyber Defense Certainty Act, drafted by Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) in March, is designed to enable people who have been targets of cybercrime to employ certain specific techniques to trace the attack and identify the attacker. The bill defines active cyber defense as "any measure -- (I) undertaken by, or at the direction of, a victim"; and "(II) consisting of accessing without authorization the computer of the attacker to the victim" own network to gather information in order to establish attribution of criminal activity to share with law enforcement or to disrupt continued unauthorized activity against the victim's own network." After releasing an initial draft of the bill in March, Rep. Tom Graves held a public event in Georgia to collect feedback on the legislation. Based on that event and other feedback, Graves made several changes to the bill, including the addition of the notification of law enforcement and an exception in the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for victims who use so-called beaconing technology to identify an attacker. "The provisions of this section shall not apply with respect to the use of attributional technology in regard to a defender who uses a program, code, or command for attributional purposes that beacons or returns locational or attributional data in response to a cyber intrusion in order to identify the source of the intrusion," the bill says.
Space

Boeing Will Make the Military's New Hypersonic Spaceplane (theverge.com) 91

The Department of Defense has selected Boeing to make a new hypersonic spaceplane that can be reused frequently over a short period of time to deliver multiple satellites into orbit. "DARPA, the agency that tests new advanced technologies for the military, has picked Boeing's design concept, called the Phantom Express, to move forward as part of the agency's Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program," reports The Verge. From the report: The goal of DARPA's XS-1 program is to create a spacecraft that's something of a hybrid between an airplane and a traditional vertical rocket. The spaceplane is meant to take off vertically and fly uncrewed to high altitudes above Earth. From there, the vehicle will release a mini-rocket -- a booster with an engine that can propel a satellite weighing up to 3,000 pounds into orbit. As the booster deploys the satellite, the spaceplane will then land back on Earth horizontally just like a normal airplane -- and then be fueled up for its next mission. DARPA wants the turnaround time between flights to last just a few hours. But perhaps the most audacious goal is the price DARPA wants for each flight. The agency is aiming for the spaceplane to cost $5 million per mission, a significant bargain considering most orbital rockets cost tens to hundreds of millions of dollars to launch. And Boeing says it's up to the task. "Phantom Express is designed to disrupt and transform the satellite launch process as we know it today, creating a new, on-demand space-launch capability that can be achieved more affordably and with less risk," Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works, said in a statement.
Crime

Sweden Drops Julian Assange Rape Investigation (cnn.com) 187

rmdingler writes: "Sweden is dropping its investigation into WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on rape allegations, according to a prosecution statement released Friday," reports CNN. "Assange, who has always denied wrongdoing, has been holed up at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012, in an effort to avoid a Swedish arrest warrant." Despite Friday's announcement, he's unlikely to walk out of the embassy imminently. There is no apparent change in the risk of being detained in the west, particularly in the U.S., but it's definitely a win for Assange. Joshua.Niland adds: The pressure on Julian Assange may have lifted ever so slightly with Swedish prosecutors dropping their investigation into the allegations of rape. A brief statement ahead of a press conference by the prosecutor later on Friday said: "Director of Public Prosecution, Ms Marianne Ny, has today decided to discontinue the investigation regarding suspected rape (lesser degree) by Julian Assange." This will not likely deter the United States from pursuing their own charges against him for publishing tens of thousands of military documents leaked by Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning. After describing the development as "an important victory," Assange said, "[...] it by no means erases seven years of detention without charge under house arrest and almost five years here in this embassy without sunlight. Seven years without charge while my children grow up without me. That is not something I can forgive. It is not something I can forget."
Government

CIA Co-Developed 'Athena' Windows Malware With US Cyber Security Company, WikiLeaks Reveals (bleepingcomputer.com) 108

An anonymous reader writes: Today, WikiLeaks leaked documentation about a tool called Athena. According to leaked documents, which WikiLeaks previously claimed it received from hackers and CIA insiders, Athena is an implant -- a CIA technical term for "malware" -- that can target and infect any Windows system, from Windows XP to Windows 10, Microsoft's latest OS version. Documents leaked today are dated between September 2015 and February 2016, showing that the CIA had the ability to hack Windows 10 months after its launch, despite Microsoft boasting about how hard it would be to hack its new OS. [...] The documents reveal that CIA had received help from a non-government contractor in developing the malware. The company is Siege Technologies, a cyber-security company based in New Hampshire, which was acquired on November 15, 2016, by Nehemiah Security, another US company, based in Tysons, Virginia, on the outskirts of Washington and near CIA's headquarters, in a zone peppered with various military and defense contractors.
Power

How the Lights Have Gone Out For the People of Syria (bbc.co.uk) 126

dryriver shares an excerpt from a report via the BBC that shows what the impact of the Syrian war looks like from space: Six years of war in Syria have had a devastating effect on millions of its people. One of the most catastrophic impacts has been on the country's electricity network. Images from NASA, obtained by BBC Arabic, show clearly how the lights have gone out during the course of the conflict, leaving people to survive with little to no power. Each timelapse frame shows an average of the light emitted at night every month from 2012, one year after the war began. They show that the areas where Syrians can turn lights on at night, power their daily lives and get access to life-saving medical equipment, have shrunk dramatically. The city of Aleppo was Syria's powerhouse and home to over two million people. But the country's industrial hub became a battleground and remained so for more than four years. Russian airstrikes against Syrian rebels began in October 2015 and the timelapse shows the city in almost complete darkness at night throughout 2016, when the battle for Aleppo was at its peak. As mains power supplies dropped off, ordinary people had to be creative in finding alternative sources for light and power.

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