John Oliver on subprime auto-lending and its killswitches

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We've been following the trade in remote kill-switches for cars sold to subprime borrowers since 2009, and watched in dismay as they got worse and worse: though John Oliver's report on the billions inflating the subprime auto-lending bubble touches on these, he focuses on the economic factors -- sleaze, corruption, moral hazard -- driving the tech. Read the rest

Proof-of-concept ransomware for smart thermostats demoed at Defcon

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Last week, Andrew Tierney and Ken Munro from Pen Test Partners demoed their proof-of-concept ransomware for smart thermostats, which relies on users being tricked into downloading malware that then roots the device and locks the user out while displaying a demand for one bitcoin. Read the rest

A free/open computer on a card that you swap in and out of a 3D printed laptop

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Lou Cabron writes, "Finally, after five years of work, Rhombus Tech has gone from a free/libre/open source "spec" to their first actual modular devices! The video is amazing. Read the rest

Australian media accessibility group raises red flag about DRM in web standards

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Media Access Australia is the only Australian nonprofit that advocates for making media accessible to people with disabilities -- and they're also a member of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an open standards body that disappointed its supporters when it bowed to the big entertainment and browser companies and agreed to make a DRM system for online video. Read the rest

Bruce Schneier on the coming IoT security dumpster-fire

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Bruce Schneier warns us that the Internet of Things security dumpster-fire isn't just bad laptop security for thermostats: rather, that "software control" (of an ever-widening pool of technologies); interconnections; and autonomy (systems designed to act without human intervention, often responding faster than humans possibly could) creates an urgency over security questions that presents an urgent threat the like of which we've never seen. Read the rest

EFF is suing the US government to invalidate the DMCA's DRM provisions

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation has just filed a lawsuit that challenges the Constitutionality of Section 1201 of the DMCA, the "Digital Rights Management" provision of the law, a notoriously overbroad law that bans activities that bypass or weaken copyright access-control systems, including reconfiguring software-enabled devices (making sure your IoT light-socket will accept third-party lightbulbs; tapping into diagnostic info in your car or tractor to allow an independent party to repair it) and reporting security vulnerabilities in these devices. Read the rest

For 90 years, lightbulbs were designed to burn out. Now that's coming to LED bulbs.

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In 1924, representatives of the world's leading lightbulb manufacturers formed Phoebus, a cartel that fixed the average life of an incandescent bulb at 1,000 hours, ensuring that people would have to regularly buy bulbs and keep the manufacturers in business. Read the rest

As browsers decline in relevance, they're becoming DRM timebombs

My op-ed in today's issue of The Tech, MIT's leading newspaper, describes how browser vendors and the W3C, a standards body that's housed at MIT, are collaborating to make DRM part of the core standards for future browsers, and how their unwillingness to take even the most minimal steps to protect academics and innovators from the DMCA will put the MIT community in the crosshairs of corporate lawyers and government prosecutors. Read the rest

Unpleasant Design: design that bullies its users

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Selena Savić and Gordan Savicic (previously) have published Unpleasant Design, their long-awaited book on "design that bullies its users" -- that is, devices, street furniture, tools and products designed to control humans. Read the rest

Russian bill mandates backdoors in all communications apps

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A pending "anti-terrorism" bill in the Duma would require all apps to contain backdoors to allow the secret police to spy on the country's messaging, in order to prevent teenagers from being "brainwashed" to "murder police officers." Read the rest

W3C DRM working group chairman vetoes work on protecting security researchers and competition

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For a year or so, I've been working with the EFF to get the World Wide Web Consortium to take steps to protect security researchers and new market-entrants who run up against the DRM standard they're incorporating into HTML5, the next version of the key web standard. Read the rest

Oculus breaks promise, uses DRM to kill app that let you switch VR systems

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As recently as 5 months ago, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey was promising his customers that they could play the software they bought from the Oculus store on "whatever they want," guaranteeing that the company wouldn't shut down apps that let customers move their purchased software to non-Oculus hardware. Read the rest

O'Reilly Hardware Podcast on the risks to the open Web and the future of the Internet of Things

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I appeared on the O'Reilly Hardware Podcast this week (MP3, talking about the way that DRM has crept into all our smart devices, which compromises privacy, security and competition. Read the rest

Kobo "upgrade" deprives readers of hundreds of DRM-locked ebooks

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Chris writes, "After a recent Kobo software upgrade, a number of Kobo customers have reported losing e-books from their libraries--notably, e-books that had been transferred to Kobo from their Sony Reader libraries when Sony left the consumer e-book business. One customer reported missing 460 e-books, and the only way to get them back in her library would be to search and re-add them one at a time! Customers who downloaded their e-books and illegally broke the DRM don't have this problem, of course." Read the rest

How standardizing DRM will make us all less secure

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After decades of fighting for open Web standards that let anyone implement software to receive and render online data, the World Wide Web Consortium changed course and created EME, a DRM system that locks up video in formats that can only be played back with the sender's blessing, and which also gives media giants the power to threaten and sue security researchers who discover bugs in their code. Read the rest

EFF to FDA: the DMCA turns medical implants into time-bombs

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation just filed comments with the FDA in its embedded device cybersecurity docket, warning the agency that manufacturers have abused the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, threatening security researchers with lawsuits if they came forward with embarrassing news about defects in the manufacturers' products. Read the rest

The Gimmick Economy: how central banks pretend software isn't eating the world

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Mathematician/economist Eric R Weinstein is managing director of Thiel Capital, but that doesn't mean that he thinks capitalism has a future. Read the rest

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