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Over Easy: Tech Notes for Friday

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Last Friday, Apple quietly pushed out an update for its iOS mobile devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod) to fix a major security flaw known as “gotofail” that could allow hackers, even those with low-level skills, to retrieve and control our sensitive information. Apparently it went unnoticed for 18 months! The flaw is in the way iOS 7 validates the SSL (secure socket layer) certificates intended to protect websites, and could allow an attacker on the same network as a victim to eavesdrop on all the victim’s activity. On Tuesday Apple finally released an update that fixes the gotofail flaw for Mac computers. Find out if you are vulnerable at the gotofailweb page, which will automatically assess your device and (in the case of Macs) which apps may be vulnerable. The Safari browser, of course, is one.

Bitcoin-coinsBitcoins, which exist in electronic form, depend on a network of computers that solve complex mathematical problems to verify and record every transaction. Investors deposit their bitcoins in digital “wallets” at various exchanges. Bitcoin deposits have no government-backed insurance as bank accounts do. Instead, customers have the same legal remedies as anyone who entrusts property to an institution that fails to protected it adequately.

Mt. Gox was the largest exchange, but it and other exchanges halted withdrawals after a series of cyber attacks. Customers were unable to access their accounts. Read How Mt. Gox went down. Mt. Gox also is being investigated by Federal prosecutors.

Minor update on Aereo this week: Broadcasters Warn Supremes Of The Innumerable Non-Existent Horrors That Will Befall Everyone If Aereo Wins.

…broadcasters have long argued that if they’re not given what they want they’re sure to go out of business, even if the evidence never actually supports that. Their latest incarnation of that has been in heavy rotation during their battle against live TV streaming service Aereo, with broadcasters arguing that if Aereo is allowed to survive, they’ll pull all of their broadcast channels from over the air and move them to paid cable tiers.

I say they should go right ahead and do that. The publicly-owned airwaves these broadcasters are using could certainly be put to better use. I’ll bet the broadcasters will love the anger of sports fans and the politicians who’ll side with those fans to gain political brownie points. Heh.

Here’s what they’re saying:

The petitioners are appealing the denial of an injunction at the 2nd Circuit and are hoping to undercut Aereo’s own position that what it does is private in nature. The TV broadcasters reject Aereo’s conclusion that cloud computing and other novel technologies could be at stake, but they do raise dire warnings about what might happen should the Supreme Court rule in Aereo’s favor. As the brief states, ‘Indeed, if that is the world in which broadcasters must live, then they may be forced to reconsider whether they can afford to continue making the same quantity and quality of programming available to the public for free in the first place.’

Finally, we see that the UK’s GCHQ, the NSA’s collaborator in the out-of-control surveillance state, has been intercepting Yahoo webcam images from millions of users.

Britain’s surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal.

GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not.

All in the name of keeping us safe™ I’m sure!

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I retired from the University of Notre Dame in the Office of Information Technology in 2010. I'm divorced, with two grown children and 8 grandchildren. I'm a lifelong liberal and a "nonbeliever."