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ACLU To FTC: Force Wireless Carriers To Secure Their Customers’ Smartphones With Available Updates

by on Sunday, April 21, 2013 at 8:09 pm EDT in Politics, Security, Technology

AndroidAnyone who has had their Android smartphone infected with malware will be interested in following the ACLU’s new efforts to better secure your device.

The ACLU has filed a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, asking the agency to force the four biggest mobile carriers (AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel, and T-Mobile USA) to begin providing Google-released security updates to their Android users. 

Presently, wireless carriers decide arbitrarily whether or not they’ll provide these security updates to their customers. The ACLU warns that “there is no legitimate software upgrade path” for the Android customer, beyond having it provided by the carrier. And without these important security patches, customers risk being hacked — their phones remotely hijacked, their personal and private data stolen, their money fleeced from their online bank accounts.

The ACLU’s Principal Technologist and Senior Policy Analyst, Christopher Soghoian, wrote in the document filed with the FTC:

All four of the major wireless carriers consistently fail to provide consumers with available security updates to repair known security vulnerabilities in the software operating on mobile devices. [...]

The wireless carriers have failed to warn consumers that the smartphones sold to them are defective and that they are running vulnerable operating system and browser software. The delivery of software updates to consumers is not just an industry best practice, but is in fact a basic requirement for companies selling computing devices that they know will be used to store sensitive information, such as intimate photographs, e-mail, instant messages, and online banking credentials.

The ACLU contends that these failures “constitute deceptive and unfair business practices subject to review by the FTC under section 5 of The Federal Trade Commission Act.” If the carriers refuse to provide important security updates, the ACLU states, then the “FTC should at a minimum force them to provide device refunds to consumers and allow consumers to terminate their contracts without penalty so that they can switch to a provider who will.”

JUST HOW BIG IS THIS PROBLEM?

Google’s Android operating system accounts for 75% of the entire smartphone market. This overwhelming dominance has helped make it a prime target for ‘black-hat’ hackers, who exploit vulnerabilities for nefarious, often criminal, purposes. Security company Kaspersky revealed in its Security Bulletin 2012 that “99% of newly discovered mobile malicious programs target the Android platform.” The monthly discovery rate for Android malware has skyrocketed from 8 per month in January 2011 to 800 per month by year end 2011 to a staggering 6,300 per month by year end 2012.

And despite Android’s exploding malware epidemic, only 2% of all Android users have received the latest Google security update from their carriers. Most of them never will.

Ars Technica’s Casey Johnston investigated the roll-out of security updates by manufacturers and wireless carriers. Her article charts the time in months between Google’s update release against the date it was applied to each smartphone. Some phones, she discovered, “never received updates during their lifetime.” She added that “all [the] phones we looked at had Android updates available to them within a reasonable time frame relative to the handset’s release, but the carrier or manufacturer never got around to pushing one out.”

She also found that all the carriers continue to sell phones which they have already ‘orphaned’ — meaning the carrier has no intentions of ever providing a security update to the phone, even if the update is vital for patching a severe vulnerability. The ACLU contends that the carriers have a duty to inform the customer of the severe security risks inherent in these ‘orphaned’ phones, before they purchase them.

For those in the market for a new Android smartphone, but who cannot wait for the ACLU’s efforts to pan out, there is only one Android smartphone guaranteed to receive timely security updates: Nexus. This is Google’s own Android smartphone. Google partners with others (Samsung, HTC, LG, etc) to design and manufacture the Nexus line, but allows all Nexus owners to bypass their carriers, and receive ALL their Android updates directly from Google.

VIDEO: Mara Verheyden-Hilliard: FBI Used Counterterrorism Resources To Monitor Occupy Group It Deemed NonViolent

by on Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 4:08 pm EDT in Justice System, Occupy Wall Street, Politics, War On Terror

Occupy Movement -- Spied On By FBIThe Partnership for Civil Justice Fund recently released newly obtained Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents which reveal that the FBI has been spying on Occupy Wall Street activists well before their very first protest.

In spite of the agency having acknowledged repeatedly in their internal documents that the movement opposes violence, and thus poses no threat, it still used counterterrorism resources and counterterrorism authorities to monitor them.

This may indicate that the movement’s political views in themselves are somehow being construed by officials as a ‘threat’.

The FBI stonewalled The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund’s FOIA request for over a year, and chose to release the highly redacted documents on the Friday going into the weekend preceding Christmas — a common tactic used by Federal agencies when releasing potentially embarrassing information, to ensure minimal press coverage and minimal public attention.

Today, Amy Goodman invited Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, to appear on DemocracyNow to discuss the group’s FOIA request and findings.

Verheyden-Hilliard tells about the FBI’s “intense coordination both with private businesses, with Wall Street, with the banks, and with state police departments and local police departments around the country.” The documents show the FBI going as far as using private groups as “proxy forces” to conduct undercover infiltration against the peaceful protesters to then report their findings back to the agency.

WATCH:

 Full Transcript

Rebuttal To Sam Seder’s Insistence That Voting Third Party Would Setback the Progressive Cause

by on Friday, November 2, 2012 at 1:03 pm EDT in Election 2012, Politics

Sam Seder recently invited veteran activist and Naked Capitalism Contributing Editor Matt Stoller onto his radio show to discuss his recent piece on Salon, entitled “The progressive case against Obama.” The discussion turned a bit testy as they battled around the logic behind voting for a third party Presidential candidate. You can listen to their debate HERE (begins around the 12th minute).

As a follow up to that debate, Seder posed the following question to Stoller, Chris Hedges, and everyone else who believes that the best way forward for progressives is to support third party candidates:

How does voting for Jill Stein or Rocky Anderson speed up the building of a movement that is a counterweight to corporate power?

Seder contends that progressives became more conscious of the struggle between the people and corporate powers under a Democratic President (Obama) than they had under a Republican one (Bush). That these 99% vs 1% lines were essentially drawn BECAUSE we had a Democratic President, and that another term for Obama would only help to grow this populist movement. He adds that if Romney were to become President the “economic injustice” movement would just transform into an “anti-Republican” one.

I disagree with Seder’s arguments. I would contend that the party of the sitting President was irrelevant to the occupy movement. Rather, the timing of the movement was driven entirely by the economic pain, as it spread across the entire industrialized world.

It makes perfect sense that the movement formulated during Obama’s term, because the financial meltdown occurred in the final months of the Bush Administration. During those last few months, Hank Paulson terrified Congress into signing TARP, and the monthly unemployment numbers skyrocketed in a way not seen since the Great Depression. And as State tax revenues began to dry up shortly thereafter, severe austerity measures were imposed at the local level — resulting in laid off school teachers and other government workers. I.e. It took a couple years for the economic pain to spread and manifest into that progressive populist movement.

Though this movement against economic injustice would have happened regardless of which party occupied the White House, if there had been a Republican President, the crowd numbers would likely have been even twice as large. Why? Because THERE ARE many Democratic partisans whose entire socioeconomic POV fits nicely and neatly within the Democratic-Republican paradigm. These types would protest for any liberal cause — just as long as a Republican President or Governor could be linked to the blame. Many of these Democrats belittled occupy’s efforts BECAUSE they couldn’t co-opt the movement for Obama. This would have been a mute point if a Republican were in power.

For proof, one must look no further than the hundred thousand protesters who stormed the Wisconsin State Capitol under Republican Governor Scott Walker in protest of that Republican-dominated state legislature’s assault on collective bargaining.

As far as Seder’s central question: “How does voting 3rd party speed up the building of a movement that is counterweight to corporate power?” — what he refuses to acknowledge is that the populist ‘movement’ he speaks of has NO political representation in Washington. NONE. ZERO.

In fact, many in support of the movement he cites actually helped to usher Obama into the White House in 2008, and are now fully cognizant of the fact that Obama has been 100% complicit in the destructive policies that have rewarded moneyed interests off the backs of the American people.

The important question — the one that Seder does not want to ask — is how does a movement go about making a non-representative government more representative? Especially, when the party traditionally allied to that movement’s ideology — the Democrats — now operate with the understanding that there are no voter repercussions for anything they do — an understanding spawned by Seder’s very own “lessor of two evils” mindset.

Take Obama’s entire first term. He broke promise after promise — selling out to corporate interests, degrading our civil liberties, declaring war on whistleblowers, etc — BECAUSE of the calculations he made with regards to progressives having nowhere else to go. So, if voters reward Obama for having made this insidious calculation against them, how would that actually work to change his or future Democratic Presidents’ behavior?

It wouldn’t.

It would achieve the very opposite by reinforcing the idea that Obama’s strategy in deceit is not only a winning one, but actually minimizes political risks. Why? Because unlike voters, the entrenched corporations — with hundreds of millions of dollars at their disposal — do have somewhere else to go. Republican, Democrat, … makes no difference to them.

The message an Obama victory would send to all future Democratic Presidential Candidates is: run and win on a popular progressive platform, and then, like Obama, pull a ‘bait and switch’ — with the goal of building up your campaign war chest in corporate money, and with impunity since progressives have nowhere else to go.

So my question to Seder would be: How successful can any peaceful populist movement be if it remains completely loyal to a political party that feels free to cavalierly ignore their wishes, while reaping tens of millions of dollars in political donations for having done so? 

Politicians must be conditioned to understand that there is a political price to be paid for selling out the voters’ best interests. This underlying principle is the essential cornerstone for all representative democracies. If the voters are too timid to punish the politicians for betraying their interests — as Sam Seder argues they should be — then politicians will naturally continue to betray their interests.

Seder’s strategy of voting Democratic, no matter what, trades away all long-term progressive opportunities for little more than a slight reduction in speed of this nation’s rightward acceleration. Like a CEO forever focused on meeting next quarter’s earnings estimates, while paying no attention to the overall degrading health of the organization he runs.

Voting third party is a strategy that works to re-align the interests of elected officials with the interests of the people, by making them understand that progressives do in fact have somewhere else to go. Governments which believe themselves to be unaccountable to the people they govern are not democracies. And that is the crisis we face.

Robert Gibbs On U.S. Killing 16 Yr Old American 2-Weeks After Killing His Father: ‘Have A More Responsible Father’ (video)

by on Saturday, October 27, 2012 at 1:34 am EDT in Foreign Policy, Justice System, Politics, War On Terror

In April 2010, Anwar al-Awlaki — an American citizen and an alleged leader of al-Qaeda operating out of Yemen — was placed on President Obama’s ‘Kill List’ for assassination. On September 30, 2011, an American drone targeted and killed him.  Two weeks later and over 200 miles away from where Awlaki was killed, his 16 year [...]

Comedy VIDEO: Triumph ‘The Insult Comic Dog’ Covers Presidential Debate, GOP Spin Room

by on Friday, October 26, 2012 at 3:28 pm EDT in Arts & Entertainment, comedy, Election 2012, Politics

Conan O’Brien’s furry correspondent Triumph takes GOP scalps at the final 2012 Presidential Debate: WATCH:

HuffPost Live’s Alyona Invites All-Star Panel To Discuss CIA Torture Whistleblower John Kiriakou’s Plea Deal (video)

by on Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 10:45 pm EDT in Justice System, Politics, War On Terror

CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou plead guilty this morning to revealing the identity of a CIA officer in the agency’s detention and interrogation program. He is expected to spend 2 1/2 years in prison. The reason he chose to negotiate a plea deal rather than go to trial was summarized succinctly by Marcy Wheeler (investigative blogger, Emptywheel): [...]

ACLU’s Adam Schwartz: Law Enforcement Uses Fusion Centers To Scrutinize Innocent Americans (video)

by on Friday, October 19, 2012 at 9:18 pm EDT in Justice System, Politics, War On Terror

Reason TV interviewed Adam Schwartz of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois where he discussed how law enforcement’s pervasive surveillance and data gathering efforts pose a threat to Americans’ constitutionally protected privacy and First Amendment rights.  Schwartz describes the significance of fusion centers and the role they play: “In the wake of the 9-11 terror [...]

Former Obama Defense Official Rosa Brooks: President Obama Is In Need Of An Intervention

by on Friday, October 19, 2012 at 5:05 pm EDT in Election 2012, Foreign Policy, Politics, World

Rosa Brooks, who served under President Obama as Counselor to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, and then Special Coordinator for Rule of Law and Humanitarian Policy, offered her former boss some long-overdue advice in her new Foreign Policy Magazine piece: “[P]ush the foreign policy ‘reset’ button.” In it, she recalls Obama’s [...]

Bank Of America And Billionaires Funded Republican & Democratic Conventions

by on Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 5:05 pm EDT in Election 2012, Politics

OpenSecrets.org, one of the best sites for tracking money in politics, just tallied up the major funders of the Republican and Democratic national conventions, and their findings are revealing. No surprises with the Republicans — the ones they are beholden to for having funded their extravaganza are mostly billionaires and huge corporations. The biggest revelations [...]

Expand The Debate: Jill Stein VS Obama On Stopping The Outsourcing Of American Jobs

by on Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 11:26 am EDT in Economy, Election 2012, Labor, Politics, Trade Policy

During a time when tens of millions of Americans find themselves unemployed, and hundreds of thousands of American jobs continue to move to low-cost labor countries, there is perhaps no single issue more important to America’s economic viability than outsourcing.  Obama, as a Presidential candidate in 2008, was consistent in naming what plagued the country’s [...]