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Saturday, September 18, 2021

A Spy in Your Pocket: How Phone Hacking by Mercenary Spyware Firms Threaten Global Privacy



 In Part 2 of our interview with Ronald Deibert, director of the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, he describes how they discovered a massive security flaw that was being exploited by the Israeli-based NSO Group to infect Apple iPhones and other devices with its Pegasus spyware. Deibert also describes how people can try to protect their devices from such security exploits, and the push to halt sales of this type of spyware. Deibert is the author of “Reset: Reclaiming the Internet for Civil Society.”
Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we bring you Part 2 of our conversation about this epic Apple correction that has been made. Apple has released an emergency software update to fix a security flaw in its iPhones and other products researchers found was being exploited by the Israeli-based NSO Group to infect the devices with its Pegasus spyware. Over 1.65 billion Apple products in use around the globe were vulnerable to the spyware since at least March. Apple said vulnerable devices could be hacked by receiving a malicious PDF file that users didn’t even have to click. It’s known as a “zero-click” exploit.

The flaw was discovered by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, which found the hack in the iPhone records of a Saudi political activist. Earlier this year, a massive data leak revealed Pegasus software had targeted the phones of thousands of journalists, activists and political figures around the world for foreign governments and NSO Group clients.

So, we’re continuing our conversation now with Ronald Deibert. He is the director of the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto. His book is called Reset: Reclaiming the Internet for Civil Society.

So, let’s continue, Ron. If you could talk about, first of all, what this “zero-click” exploit is, for laypeople who can’t even understand that, but how so many phones, iPhones, iPads, got infected, and how people can protect themselves?…”

Saturday, August 14, 2021

iJustine Interview: Tech, Relationships, Jiu-Jitsu, Setting Boundaries, ...

Google Infringed on Patents Owned by Sonos, a Trade Judge Says

Google Infringed on Patents Owned by Sonos, a Trade Judge Says

“Sonos is seeking to ban the import of several Google products that are made in China. The preliminary finding will now be reviewed by the full United States International Trade Commission.

A Google Home smart speaker.
Dave Paresh/Reuters

OAKLAND, Calif. — Google infringed on speaker-technology patents held by Sonos and should not be allowed to import products that violate Sonos’s intellectual property, a judge said in a preliminary finding by the United States International Trade Commission that was released on Friday.

In January 2020, Sonos sued Google in federal court and in front of the United States International Trade Commission, a quasi-judicial body that decides trade cases and can block the import of goods that violate patents. Google later filed a countersuit against Sonos, claiming that Sonos was infringing on its patents.

Sonos had asked the commission to block imports of Google Home smart speakers, the company’s Chromecast systems and its Pixel phones and computers. Those products are made in China and shipped to the United States.

The brief ruling did not explain why the judge, Charles E. Bullock, believed Google had violated the Tariff Act of 1930, which aims to prevent unfair competition through actions such as the import of products that infringe on U.S. patents, trademarks or copyrights.

The judge’s ruling is not the last word. The full commission has to consider whether to accept or reverse his decision for a final ruling, which is scheduled to take place on Dec. 13. If an import ban is imposed, it wouldn’t take effect for 60 days — well after the holiday shopping season.

José Castañeda, a spokesman for Google, said the company does not use Sonos’s technology. “We disagree with this preliminary ruling and will continue to make our case in the upcoming review process,” he said.

On Wednesday, Eddie Lazarus, Sonos’s chief legal officer, called Google a “serial infringer” of Sonos patents. On a conference call with analysts, he estimated that Google had infringed on more than 150 patents owned by Sonos, although it raised issues only with five patents to the commission. The case in front of the commission is just “the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

On Friday, Mr. Lazarus said in a statement, “This decision reaffirms the strength and breadth of our portfolio, marking a promising milestone in our long-term pursuit to defend our innovation against misappropriation by Big Tech monopolies.”

Sonos has said that Amazon is also violating its patents — a charge that Amazon denies. Sonos executives have said it pursued legal action against only Google because it did not know if it could sue two tech giants at the same time.

Sonos pioneered the market for home speakers that can be controlled by a smartphone and can synchronize music wirelessly between different speakers throughout the house. In recent years, Google, Amazon and Apple have pushed into the market for voice-controlled speakers. Sonos also offers speakers that use the Google Assistant software or Amazon’s similar Echo technology to control the device.

Sonos and Google are also locked in legal disputes over patents in California and Texas as well as France, Germany and the Netherlands.

Sonos’s share price rose 6 percent in after-hours trading on Friday.

Daisuke Wakabayashi covers technology from San Francisco, including Google and other companies. Previously, he spent eight years at The Wall Street Journal, first as a foreign correspondent in Japan and then covering technology in San Francisco. @daiwaka

Monday, August 02, 2021

A one-man scam Pac’: Trump’s money hustling tricks prompt fresh scrutiny The ex-president has built an arsenal of groups staffed with ex-officials and loyalists seemingly aimed at sustaining his political hopes for a comeback

‘A one-man scam Pac’: Trump’s money hustling tricks prompt fresh scrutiny

“Donald Trump’s penchant for turning his political and legal troubles into fundraising schemes has long been recognized, but the former US president’s money hustling tricks seem to have expanded since his defeat by Joe Biden, prompting new scrutiny and criticism from campaign finance watchdogs and legal analysts.

Critics note Trump has built an arsenal of political committees and nonprofit groups, staffed with dozens of ex-administration officials and loyalists, which seem aimed at sustaining his political hopes for a comeback, and exacting revenge on Republican congressional critics. These groups have been aggressive in raising money through at times misleading appeals to the party base which polls show share Trump’s false views he lost the White House due to fraud.

Just days after his defeat last November, Trump launched a new political action committee, dubbed Save America, that together with his campaign and the Republican National Committee quickly raked in tens of millions of dollars through text and email appeals for a Trump “election defense fund”, ostensibly to fight the results with baseless lawsuits alleging fraud.

The fledgling Pac had raised a whopping $31.5m by year’s end, but Save America spent nothing on legal expenses in this same period, according to public records. Run by Trump’s 2016 campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, Save America only spent $340,000 on fundraising expenses last year.

In another move, Trump last month announced he was filing class-action lawsuits against Facebook, Google and Twitter, alleging “censorship” due to bans by the platforms after the 6 January Capitol attack that Trump helped stoke. But the move prompted several legal experts to pan the lawsuits as frivolous and a fundraising ploy.

Trump’s new legal stratagem raised red flags, in part because he teamed up with America First Policy Institute (AFPI), a non-profit group led by ex-White House official Brooke Rollins. At a press briefing with Trump, Rollins publicly told supporters they could “join the lawsuit” by signing up on a website, takeonbigtech.org, a claim belied by details on the website which featured a red button with the words “DONATE to AFPI”.

“Donald Trump is a one-man scam Pac,” said Paul S Ryan, vice-president of policy and litigation with Common Cause. “Bait-and-switch is among his favorite fundraising tactics,” Ryan stressed, noting that Trump’s Save America Pac told “supporters he needed money to challenge the result of an election he clearly lost”, and then wound up not spending any on litigation last year.

“Now he’s at it again, with frivolous lawsuits filed [in July] against Facebook, Twitter and Google, accompanied by fundraising appeals,” Ryan added. “This time he’s got the unlimited dark money group America First Policy Institute in on the racket.”

Other experts voice strong concerns about Trump’s tactics with Save America

“The president deceived his donors. He asked them to give money so he could contest the election results, but then he spent their contributions to pay off unrelated debts,” said Adav Noti, a former associate general counsel at the Federal Election Commission and now chief of staff at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center.

Noti added: “ That’s dangerously close to fraud. If a regular charity – or an individual who didn’t happen to be president of the United States – had raised tens of millions of dollars through that sort of deception, they would face a serious risk of prosecution.”

Such concerns have not deterred Trump’s fundraising machine from expanding further with the launch of a super Pac, Make America Great Again Action, which can accept unlimited donations. Both the Super Pac and Save America are run by Trump’s ex campaign manager Lewandowski, who did not return calls seeking comment.

The Super Pac has reportedly hosted at least two events for mega donors at Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, and in Dallas, but it’s not known how much has been hauled in so far.

Both Pacs are seen as vehicles for Trump to raise more funds to influence 2022 congressional races, where he has vowed to try to defeat several politicians such as the anti-Trump Republican Liz Cheney who voted to impeach him this year after the Capitol attack.

Campaign filings for the first six months of 2021 reveal that Trump’s political groups led by Save America raised $82m dollars, an unprecedented total for an ex president. Save America banked most of the funds while spending some to pay for Trump’s travel and other expenses, instead of challenging election results in states like Arizona despite Trump’s false claims of fraud there.

Veteran campaign finance analysts say that the bevy of Trump-linked groups launched since his defeat raise new questions about his motives and political intentions

“Trump’s aggressive fundraising, using a variety of committees and surrogates, raises questions about whether his continual hints at running in 2024 is primarily a ploy for donations,” said Sheila Krumholz, who leads the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. “Trump may be more interested in fundraising than actually running, especially given how unprecedented his post-loss fundraising is.”

Besides Trump’s fundraising pitches for his new Pacs and non-profits, some major Republicans groups have collaborated in fundraising appeals since his defeat, and keep piggybacking on his allure to the party base, despite Trump’s repeated falsehoods that the election was stolen

In the eight weeks post-election, for instance, the RNC, the Trump campaign and Save America reportedly raised about $255m, but only spent a small fraction on lawsuits.

Further, Trump’s cachet with small donors is still exploited by party allies including the National Republican Senatorial Committee, (NRSC) the fundraising arm for Republican senators.

For instance, the NRSC in July email fundraising pitches touted a free Trump T-shirt for a limited number of donors writing checks from $35 to $5,000 to “protect the America First Majority”.

Similarly, the RNC in a 19 July email alert rolled out a money pitch to become an “official 2021 Trump Life Member” for donors who chipped in $45 or more by midnight.

Charlie Black, a longtime Republican operative, said that Republicans committees realize that Trump’s “name has the most popular appeal to the grassroots, so naturally they’re going to try to figure out ways to use his brand where they can to raise more funds”.

But legal analysts caution that Trump’s fundraising modus operandi with his various new Pacs and non-profits are different, and carry clear risks for unwitting donors and US campaign finance laws.

“Our nation’s campaign finance and anti-fraud laws have proven no match for Trump’s schemes,” said Ryan of Common Cause. “So my one piece of advice for Trump supporters is donor beware!”