Online security is an ever changing landscape of defenses, strategies, intrusion tactics, countermeasures, and technologies locked in an eternal war. Legal matters sometimes intersect and can provide sweeping changes as new perspectives are considered in a world that marches toward a digital future at a faster rate. As every fact of life becomes more imbued with digital surveillance, there are times when specific acts and events must be scrutinized for the sake of judicial review.
This is even more prevalent with the move to working from home. Several industries are coming to terms with the new normal of telecommunication, and this is presenting challenges to be negotiated for a wide variety of personnel.
Simply put: our lives are online all the time now.
On November 30th, 2020, a new case – Van Buren vs. United States – had arguments open up with the Supreme Court concerning this very topic. In short, a police officer accepted money to look up restricted information in a law enforcement database (specifically, the license plate of a citizen). The question here is simple – does an actor who has privileged access still maintain that clearance when it is used for unauthorized purposes?
Essentially, this matter can be reduced to “it’s not illegal, buuuuuuut something feels a little off about it.” Theoretically, the argument of “there’s no law against it, thus it is not legal” has come under fire for a variety of reasons throughout history, and anything that resembles an invasion of privacy can certainly fall under this umbrella. The policeman in this situation did not break a law or violate any kind of rule or order, but it still feels strange to know that someone on friendly terms with an officer could gain access to information hidden from the public.
However, really, that’s kind of besides the point. The bigger issue here is less about the foggy nature of what happened, and more about how to classify it. This is important because until we can apply specific labels and designations, appropriate punishment (if even any should be applied) for breaching online security is difficult to assess.
Specifically, this case falls under the nebulous area of hacking (broadly defined as a situation where a user gains unauthorized access to digital resources), with specific respect to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). It was enacted in 1986 in response to ensuring that computer-related crimes could actually be punished from a legal standpoint (again, shades of weeeeeell it wasn’t illegal when I did it).
Unfortunately, the CFAA has generally been seen as vague. For example, does breaching any part of the terms of service for a website, application, or digital service constitute a violation of online security?
Tim Wu – a longstanding legal scholar and professor at Columbia Law School – has called it “the worst law in technology,” and his involvement in the computer world cannot be understated (he coined the term “net neutrality” for starters). The CFAA is believed and cited to pressure free-speech advocates, stifle journalistic endeavors, and complicate the punishment phase of law by raising a misdemeanor into a felony (creating disproportionate sentences).
One of the most famous examples of this is the case of Aaron Swartz. To summarize, he downloaded academic journals from MIT, and was charged under the CFAA with wire fraud. Following a very controversial lawsuit that resulted in felony charges, he committed suicide. This has been a subject of intense debate when it comes to free speech and the limitless punitive measures available to federal prosecutors.
Maybe the shortest way to think of this is that we – as a society – are still coming to terms with the breadth and depth that technology has on daily life, and have not yet caught up in terms of proper regulation and law with regards to our online security.
This is why this case is being heard by the Supreme Court – to discuss a long standing and still undecided law that can potentially have widespread impact on the entire digital world. Apparently, this discussion is a long time coming.
You are most likely wondering why or how this would affect you, which is an entirely valid response to have. For example, if you created two accounts on a shopping website to get a 10% coupon for two separate orders when the coupon specifically dictates one per household, could you be charged? Think about it – you knowingly created two accounts with the same physical address for the purpose of saving some money. Under some interpretations of the CFAA, this would constitute hacking behavior (or at least hacking- like behavior) and could result in felony charges.
Another example: All the recent activity involved the Playstation 5 and scalpers could fall under CFAA litigation. I’m not even sure there’s ANY laws being broken there, but a shrewd argument could be made regarding the use of bots to game checkout systems to obtain stock in a not-fraudulent fraudulent way. I’m not saying this kind of behavior should be punished, even if I really want to play that sweet new Spiderman game.
The point here is that it’s a planet sized swamp of legal complexity that may finally force specific conversations and new laws to be put into place. Arguments are underway, and digital rights advocates are understandably keeping close watch.
I’d wager no one in the entire world – should their entire inventory of digital actions be known – would be immune to prosecution under the current constructs of the CFAA. When you think about it that way, and when you think of all the seemingly innocuous things you’ve done that could suddenly land you in front of a judge, then it’s clear that this case can and should be considered extremely applicable to everyone.
Infinity Maps is the most mind-blowing visual workspace ever
(TECHNOLOGY) Infinity Maps is bringing together whiteboarding, diagramming, and real-time collaboration all in one neat tool.
Digital tools should be effective and efficient. They should help you plan, create, and manage your projects so your team can build solutions to your overall goals. While many tools say they are the all-in-one tool solution, this is a pretty bold statement to make. Each company is different, and one size doesn’t necessarily fit all.
However, there comes a time when such a tool comes slightly close to filling that spot. Infinity Maps seeks to do this by marrying some of the best qualities of different tools and adding its spice to the mix.
What does Infinity Maps offer?
The web application is partially an online whiteboard tool. In your workspace, called Canvas, you create your content by using cards. In these cards, you can add text, images, and files. Cards can be nested indefinitely creating hierarchies while still maintaining a “clear and concise” structure. You can do this by simply dragging a card into another card.
To visualize how each card correlates to one another, you have the option to link cards with arrows. These arrows are further organized by changing the color of each one or changing the color of the card itself.
Infinity Maps lets your team collaborate in real-time. To work together, you can invite users to your map. When you share your workspace, you assign people different roles so they have the correct permissions to read or write on your map. Like Google’s web tools, you can see who is using the map because each username will show up next to their cursor and be assigned a different color.
Navigating through Infinity Maps is easy and works just like Google Maps. By double-clicking, you are taken directly to the card you selected. You can also scroll up and down and use the trackpad to zoom in and out of your map. This feature is super helpful when you have hundreds of cards on your map.
Why Infinity Maps?
The company says Infinity Maps is a “revolutionary new product that allows you to organize vast amounts of information visually & spatially”. It is a combination of Miro, Notion, and Google Maps all into one.
“What are we doing differently?” asks Infinity Maps CEO & Co-Founder Johannes Grenzemann. “With Infinity Maps, we are building a knowledge management system that allows you to create vast, huge knowledge bases [that] depict high complexity and depth while staying mind friendly because it’s a visual approach,” Grenzemann said.
Overall, Infinity Maps is a neat knowledge tool. It can be used in several ways, from students trying to organize their thesis to startups managing their product launches.
If you’re interested in checking them out to see if they are indeed the all-in-one tool solution, you can sign up to start mapping. A free account gives you access to 3 maps, up to 150 cards per map, and 50MB of cloud space. If you need more space to map out your ideas, you can unlock additional cards by inviting a friend or purchasing cards. Pro, unlimited, and team subscriptions plans are also available for purchase.
China cracks down on user data collection, allegedly cares about privacy
(TECH) Either China’s government just grew a conscience, or they’re trying to compete on a global stage. Either way, they’re implementing new laws.
In an uncharacteristic looking move for end-user privacy and choice, China has passed sweeping new legislation entitled the Personal Information Protection Law. It’s set to take effect on November 1, 2021, and includes provisions governing consent in user data collection of tech applications and specifies how companies can use that data, especially if that data is to be transferred out of China.
This is the second of two pieces of legislation to emerge this year as China takes a hard look at their cyberspace and try their hand at oversight.
The Data Security law, which came into effect on Sept. 1, set classification frameworks for data based on “its economic value and relevance to China’s national security” as cited in Reuters.
According to experts, both laws will require companies to reevaluate how they collect and store data on a massive scale. As regulations continue to develop rapidly during China’s re-examination of their tech industry, companies are scrambling to meet the stringent new requirements and adjust their infrastructure for compliance at a break-neck pace.
- The Personal Information Protection Law similar in design to Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation
- China’s top cyberspace regulator, Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), issued an investigation into Didi Global Inc, their version of Uber, with accusations of user privacy violations
- An extensive set of rules targeting business practices that undermine fair competition, such as cultivating reviews, were implemented by China’s State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR)
- 43 apps were accused of illegally transferring user data and called out by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and required to make “rectifications”
Similar cyberspace scrutiny is happening in the US regarding monopolies held by some of the biggest players in tech like Google, Facebook, and Amazon but is moving very slowly through the legislative process.
In terms of how this impacts Americans, TikTok is currently one of the single most downloaded apps in the US and owned by Beijing-based company ByteDance. According to The Sun, ByteDance is now the most valuable startup in the world with an estimated value of 1 billion USD.
Many doubt that China actually cares about privacy, but some believe that keeping up the appearance of playing by modern corporate rules benefits their government as they seek global dominance.
Apparently, the chip shortage is NOT easing up this year…
(TECH NEWS) If you’re a tech person who has tried to buy anything with a chip in it, you know there’s been a shortage and therefore a buying frenzy. Which apparently isn’t ending soon.
It appears that the chip shortage, a phenomenon that has plagued production for the last six or so months, is not easing up like people had initially predicted. The real-world effects of this shortage are varied, but impactful.
The Daily Brew’s Dan McCarthy reports that the average wait time for chip deliveries is up to over 20 weeks at this point, a number that (despite postulation that the second half of 2021 would see increased chip production) is higher than the wait times in both July and June of this year.
The chip shortage has a few different roots, but the primary one as of late is a slew of COVID-19 outbreaks in Southeast Asia – specifically near locations that produce large numbers of semiconductors for the rest of the world. It’s thought that the wait time will increase in the coming weeks, even as companies slash predictions and hunker down for a hit to their profits this season.
For context, manufacturers were having to wait for a little over 12 weeks for their semiconductors this time last year. It’s clear that we’re going in the wrong direction if we’re planning to keep up production going into this next year.
The implications of such a shortage range from baffling to sobering. Earlier this year, people struggled to find PS5s for reasonable prices; more importantly, though, is the effect this shortage is having on the automobile industry. A couple of weeks ago, Toyota announced a 40 percent cut in production plans for September.
With GM, Ford, Stellantis, and VW adding that they will most likely cut back on production as well, it looks like the 2022 vehicle market will be the latest casualty to lower-than-optimal supply in a time of moderate demand.
While the chips used in cars, appliances, and other common electronics are profoundly affected by the shortage, it appears that “power management” chips (the ones used in smaller devices, namely smartphones) have a decreased wait time from last month. This somewhat contradicts a shortage warning by Apple in late July, though we’re clearly not out of the woods regarding production efficiency yet.
It is extremely likely that this shortage will impact auto and appliance production in 2022.
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