How free software stayed free

I did an interview with the Changelog podcast (MP3) about my upcoming talk at the O'Reilly Open Source conference in London, explaining how it is that the free and open web became so closed and unfree, but free and open software stayed so very free, and came to dominate the software landscape. Read the rest

Swedish law will let you write off the money you spend fixing things rather than trashing them

In Sweden a legislative proposal will let repair shops will charge lower sales-tax, and allow people who repair their appliances and bicycles be to write off their expenditures. Read the rest

The AI Now Report: social/economic implications of near-future AI

The National Economic Council convened a symposium at NYU's Information Law Institute in July, and they've released their report: 25 crisp (if slightly wonky) pages on how AI could increase inequality, erode accountability, and lead us into temptation -- along with recommendations for how to prevent this, from involving marginalized and displaced people in AI oversight; to increasing the diversity of AI researchers; to modifying the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and Digital Millennium Copyright Act to clarify that neither stands in the way of independent auditing of AI systems. Read the rest

HTML standardization group calls on W3C to protect security researchers from DRM

The World Wide Web Consortium has embarked upon an ill-advised project to standardize Digital Rights Management (DRM) for video at the behest of companies like Netflix; in so doing, they are, for the first time, making a standard whose implementations will be covered under anti-circumvention laws like Section 1201 of the DMCA, which makes it a potential felony to reveal defects in products without the manufacturer's permission. Read the rest

HP detonates its timebomb: printers stop accepting third party ink en masse

On September 13, owners of HP OfficeJet, OfficeJet Pro and OfficeJet Pro X began contacting third-party ink vendors by the thousand, reporting that their HP printers no longer accepted third-party ink. Read the rest

IoT malware exploits DVRs, home cameras via default passwords

The Internet of Things business model dictates that devices be designed with the minimum viable security to keep the products from blowing up before the company is bought or runs out of money, so we're filling our homes with net-connected devices that have crummy default passwords, and the ability to probe our phones and laptops, and to crawl the whole internet for other vulnerable systems to infect. Read the rest

John Oliver on subprime auto-lending and its killswitches

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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