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A lock icon, signifying an encrypted Internet connection, is seen on an Internet Explorer browser. (Reuters)

Digital Divide Widens as the Web Adopts Stronger Encryption Standard

On New Year’s Day, a change meant to strengthen online security will have the inverse effect, too, leaving millions of users’ Web traffic completely exposed.

Microsoft, Google, and Mozilla will start phasing out older Internet encryption in Edge, Chrome, and Firefox browsers in favor of a newer, more secure standard. The aim is to get websites to adopt a beefier security method for ensuring private communications and safe bank transactions over the Internet.

But Web browsers that haven’t been updated in the past few years or older generations of many mobile devices, which are commonplace in much of the developing world, will be unable to use the updated encryption standard. That means that many of those users will lose access to online functions protected by the Web protocol called Secure HTTP, or HTTPS.

Read the rest of this article at the Christian Science Monitor …

ISIS supporters hold the group's flag aloft (Tauseef Mustafa:AFP:Getty Images)

What Is ISIS? A Primer on the Terrorist Group Behind the Attacks in Paris

Last weekend, French President François Hollande declared war on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the terrorist group that has taken responsibility for the brutal attacks in Paris, Beirut, and Baghdad last week. The Paris attack left at least 129 people dead, with another 46 dead in Beirut and 18 in Baghdad. ISIS has also claimed responsibility for downing a Russian airliner in Egypt earlier this month, killing 224 people.

With that violent track record, ISIS, also known as Daesh, has become on of the world’s most dangerous security threats — and they’re a relatively new organization.

But who and what is ISIS, exactly?

Read the rest of this article at Teen Vogue …

A spectator walks past illuminations of a French tricolour flag, in tribute to the victims of the Paris attacks, as she arrives to watch the ATP Tennis Finals in London. (Toby Melville/Reuters)

Paris Attacks Stir Global Debate over Online Encryption

As French officials continue to track down those who planned and helped carry out Friday’s brutal attacks in Paris, the terrorist attacks are already sparking a heated debate about whether national security concerns should entitle governments to greater ability to track secret communications and break the encryption increasingly found on consumer devices.

Read the rest of this article at the Christian Science Monitor …

A ceremony to launch the diesel-electric submarine "Rostov-on-Don" at the Admiralty Shipyards in St. Petersburg, Russia, in June 2014. (Alexander Demianchuk/Reuters)

Why the Russian Threat to Undersea Cables Is Overblown

It sounds like something from a Hollywood blockbuster – Russian submarines mapping the telephone and Internet cables under the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, ready to cut them at a moment’s notice and leave North America digitally stranded, cut off from the rest of the world.

But that’s exactly what unnamed Pentagon officials say they worry could be in the works, according to a New York Times article published last week.

Read the rest of this article at the Christian Science Monitor …

East Village residents charge their phones by generator after many New York City neighborhoods were left without power for days after Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. (Allison Joyce/Getty Images)

Flooding the System: Climate Change Could Knock the Internet Offline

For two or three days, J. Patrick Brown wasn’t sure if his whole family had made it out of New Orleans safely. They had decided to stay behind when Hurricane Katrina hit, to care for an ailing relative. Stuck inside without television or Internet access, they relied on him to call them from his college in Maine with updates on what was happening in the city.

When the city’s levees broke, he finally persuaded them to get out as quickly as they could. Not long after, the cell towers went down, and they lost contact.

Read the rest of this article at Al Jazeera America …

Protesters outside the Lebanon Public Library gathered to show support for running a Tor relay at the New Hampshire library. (Joe Uchill/The Christian Science Monitor)

Law Enforcement Emails Highlight Entrenched Camps in Tor Debate

At a public hearing last week, city officials in Lebanon, N.H., voted to restart a server in their public library that is part of the Tor anonymous Web browser. The decisions came in response to a flood of support from privacy advocates and civil libertarians after officials temporarily shut that server down.

E-mails obtained by the New Hampshire American Civil Liberties Union and shared with Passcode highlight the entrenched camps in the debate: law enforcement, who often deal with the worst-case scenarios of anonymity technology – such as child pornography – and privacy advocates, who encounter some of its best uses – political freedom and avoiding surveillance.

Read the rest of this article at the Christian Science Monitor …

As Senate Rejects Cyber Bill, Privacy Trumps Security Concerns

A controversial cybersecurity bill that drew heavy criticism from privacy advocates may have been put on the backburner last week, but some observers fear that the issue may return later in the year.

The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) failed a procedural vote in the Senate, 40 to 56, despite bipartisan support and a heavy push by Republican leaders. It encourages organizations to monitor their networks and share “cyberthreat indicators” — which could include users’ personal data — with the intelligence community.

Read the rest of this article at Al Jazeera America …

Can Tweeters Be Tamed?

It was a simple tweet, with just a hint of edge. After police used tear gas and rubber bullets against Black Lives Matter protesters in Berkeley, Calif., on Dec. 6, Kaya Oakes, an author and lecturer who teaches writing at the University of California, Berkeley, posted a note offering students injured in the protest extra time to finish an assignment.

“If any of my #Berkeley students were teargassed, batoned, or shot w/rubber bullets last night, you can have an extension on your essay,” Ms. Oakes tweeted.

The tweet was tongue-in-cheek, according to Oakes, but it was also a show of support for what she thought was a largely peaceful protest that police met with undue force. But after conservative pundit Michelle Malkin’s Twitchy blog picked up Oakes’s tweet, it took on a life of its own. Over the course of the next two days, Oakes’s tweet showed up on the blog of Megyn Kelly at Fox News, the Fox and Friends’ Facebook page, and a local CBS affiliate.

Read the rest of this article by Harry Bruinius, to which I contributed reporting, at the Christian Science Monitor …

Aaron Swartz at a Boston Wikipedia Meetup in 2009. (Sage Ross via Flickr)

Lawmakers Revive Support for Aaron’s Law to Reform Anti-Hacking Statute

In 2011, her partner, the Internet activist Aaron Swartz, snuck into a wiring closet at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and downloaded millions of scholarly articles from an online database. He was later arrested and prosecutors charged him with violations under the fraud and abuse act that carried up to 35 years in prison. Before any trial or deal with federal prosecutors, however, Mr. Swartz, 26, committed suicide.

Swartz’s friends, family members, and fellow activists blamed his death on an overzealous prosecution and a harsh application of the federal anti-hacking statute.

As a result, in June 2013, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D) of California introduced a bill known as “Aaron’s Law” to reform the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), which critics such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation have long complained has been so abused that it stifles security research and hampers innovation.

Read the rest of this article at the Christian Science Monitor …

Censorship (Eric Drooker)

Scaling the Firewall: Ways Around Government Censorship Online

When Turkey temporarily blocked more than 100 websites — including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube — earlier this month in an effort to censor a photo that authorities there called “terrorist propaganda,” the blackout generated an uproar across the Web and #twitterisblockedinturkey became a top trending hashtag on Twitter.

Online censorship is something the Turkish people are becoming accustomed to, and are increasingly finding ways around. And they are hardly alone in facing regular online outages.

Read the rest of this article at the Christian Science Monitor …

A man walks with a cell pone. (Ann Hermes/Christian Science Monitor)

Burner Promotion Shows How Much Phone Numbers Reveal

It can be unsettling to watch a computer spit out your personal information before it even knows your name. Especially when the information appears in a terminal font, superimposed over a map of your area.

That’s probably what you’ll see if you take the Burner Challenge, which uses your phone number to show you just how much information those digits can reveal – everything from names of acquaintances, to lists of old employers, to your current and previous addresses. And it’s all gleaned from public sources.

Read the rest of this article at the Christian Science Monitor …

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. (John Shinkle/Politico)

Will New Senate Intel Committee Leadership Doom NSA, CIA Reform?

The Republican takeover of the Senate after the midterm elections threatens to stall attempts to reform the nation’s surveillance laws and avoid transparency about the CIA’s controversial interrogation program, experts and civil liberties campaigners believe. The changeover could further weaken what some say is already lax oversight of the nation’s intelligence activities, especially on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI).

Read the rest of this article at Al Jazeera America …

Sean Haugh talks in one of his campaign's YouTube videos (Sean Haugh/YouTube)

Pizza Delivery Man for Senate: Delete All the NSA’s Files

Sean Haugh is sitting at the bar in jeans and a t-shirt, holding court about the problems in Washington. Occasionally, he pauses to take a big gulp out of a pint glass emblazoned with a picture of libertarian economist Murray Rothbard. It’s a scene you might not expect to come across at a bar in Durham, N.C., where Haugh lives. It’s also at least slightly bizarre for a campaign ad in a tightly contested race.

Read the rest of this article at Al Jazeera America …

Republican ISIL Fear-Mongering Amplifies Extremists’ Message, Experts Say

In one frame of the video, a masked fighter for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) brandishes a knife, with a beheaded American journalist just beyond view. In another, the Mosque of the Prophet Jonah disappears into a cloud of dust. A crowd of masked gunmen hold Kalashnikovs aloft. Dramatic music plays in the background.

But this isn’t a recruitment video for ISIL. It’s a campaign ad for Allen Weh, who is running against Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., in the Nov. 4 midterm elections.

Read the rest of this article at Al Jazeera America …

(Daniel Hertzberg for The Boston Globe)

New Light on Black Sites: Foreign Courts Crack Down on US-Led Human Rights Abuses

“We tortured some folks.”

President Obama’s words were all the more chilling for their casualness. He was speaking to reporters on Aug. 1 about a Central Intelligence Agency program that disappeared terrorism suspects into secret CIA prisons abroad for “enhanced interrogation.” That program was just one aspect of the post-9/11 global war on terror, an ongoing conflict that also includes the mass surveillance programs revealed by Edward Snowden over the last year. Both government initiatives share a common thread: They offshore massive human rights abuses.

Read the rest of this article at The Boston Globe …

Edward Snowden (The Guardian)

Looking Back in Anger: One Year of Snowden’s Leaks

One year ago, Russia granted Edward Snowden temporary asylum after a 39-day stay for the NSA whistleblower in the transit zone at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. Snowden had become stranded there while trying to flee to Latin America, where several countries had offered permanent asylum after the U.S. government filed charges against him for making off with thousands of classified documents about its surveillance programs.

Since then, the Snowden story has unfolded in dramatic ways for a nonstop 12 months — as the world reacted to the vast amount of information that his files contained — sparking revelation after revelation about some of the nation’s most cherished secrets. It has also sparked a fierce policy debate over how to make intelligence organizations more accountable.

Read the rest of this article at Al Jazeera America …