Kriston Capps is a staff writer for CityLab covering housing, architecture, and politics. He previously worked as a senior editor for Architect magazine.
Source: National Cyber Security – Produced By Gregory Evans We’ve been chasing ET for millennia with nothing concrete to show for it. Aside from conspiracy theory claims that the US government has an alien spacecraft hidden away somewhere, the search for alien life has been a complete bust. Michael Masters, a professor of biological anthropology […] View full post on AmIHackerProof.com
Source: National Cyber Security – Produced By Gregory Evans Was it the whipping up of white working-class voters in Trump’s election campaign? Or the toxic debate around immigration during the Brexit referendum? Or was it as early as the birth of social media, when a platform was handed to racists? However it happened, public discourse […] View full post on AmIHackerProof.com
With the next census, for the first time ever, respondents will be able to fill out their questionnaires online. This marks a major transition for the count, which guides the apportionment of seats in Congress and the disbursement of hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funds. Giving Americans the option to fill out the 2020 census by laptop or smartphone means dragging Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution into the 21st century. For better or for worse.
Worries over the looming census run beyond the typical concerns about underfunding and understaffing (although those are fraying nerves this time around also). Putting the census online opens a Pandora’s box of new risks, including meddling from hackers and scammers, and there’s evidence that vultures are already circling. While the first-ever online census introduces challenges for consumer protection and data security, the greatest threat to the census itself may be inequality—specifically, the digital divide.
“Asking people to fill out a form on their phone is quite different and complicated from asking people to use a social media app,” says Greta Byrum, co-director of the Digital Equity Laboratory at the New School.
First, the good news: An overwhelming majority of adults in America know about the census and plan to participate. The brand is strong, according to the Pew Research Center, despite the Trump administration’s failed effort to pin a divisive citizenship question onto the questionnaire. Yet its (quite literal) household-name status also makes it a high-value target for players intent on misleading people.
For example, in October, the Republican National Committee issued a mailer in Bozeman and other areas in Montana that represented itself as a “2019 congressional district census.” The document was really a disguised solicitation for President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, leading officials in Montana to condemn the “imitation census” as misinformation.
Other census-lookalike forms are designed to lure people to sites where they might be asked for identifying personal information or financial records (even though the census doesn’t ask for these details). “We’ve already seen cases of fake mailers, where they ask people to go to some random URL,” Byrum says. She gives an example of a library patron in Canandaigua, New York, who brought a mimic mailer in to the local library to ask whether it was an official census form.
When the official 2020 census launches next April, the mailers that come to households will direct respondents to a web address and provide them with a unique identifying code. That opens a window for fraud: Bad actors might design convincing spoof sites that look like an official census portal, or they might zero in on (say) a wifi network created for census response by a neighborhood complete count committee. All the usual malware maladies that plague email could be tried against the census, and the same people who are vulnerable to those attacks—older people and those less familiar with online interactions—may be victimized. Other scammers pretend to be Census Bureau staffers and use analog methods of deceit to lure victims into handing over Social Security numbers and other identifying personal information over the phone or at the door. Organizations like AARP have been warning members how to better identify census fraud threats and imposters.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 data collection push itself could also be a target. When Australia launched its first online census in 2016, it was subject to a distributed denial of service attack that crashed the site, forcing authorities to take it down. Security experts have warned the Bureau that census data will be vulnerable both during transmission and at rest. Earlier this year, officials from the Government Accountability Office testified before the House that the Census Bureau had flagged more than 500 corrective actions to be taken during a cybersecurity risk assessment, nearly half of which were deemed high risk.
“The Census Bureau has been extremely guarded about how they’re building these systems,” Byrum says. “There was a long delay on procurement of these contracts because of the [federal government] shutdown [in 2018–19]. The Census Bureau is really far behind on building the IT systems.”
Delays, budget uncertainties, and lapses in leadership have loomed over the census. While three full trials were planned to test all 50-odd new IT systems for the 2020 Census, the bureau scaled back its preparations to a single dress rehearsal in Rhode Island’s Providence County due to funding shortfalls. “When we went into the end-to-end pilot in Rhode Island in 2018, several of the systems were not completed yet. We haven’t seen them. They haven’t been tested in the field. They’re not going to be tested.”
Even the system for ensuring that the census reaches hard-to-count households is brand new. For the 2010 census, the bureau hired about 160,000 temporary workers known as “listers” to canvas nearly every block in the nation and generate the agency’s master address file (part of a much larger temporary workforce). As a cost-saving mechanism, the Census Bureau scaled back the door-to-door canvassing operation for 2020. The agency is splitting this task into “in-field” and “in-office” efforts. The latter involves sophisticated data analysis techniques, including machine learning and satellite imaging, to generate a profile for places that have added addresses.
As a result, the Census Bureau is only physically canvassing a quarter of the blocks that the agency covered for the last census. During the single (and only) end-to-end trial conducted of the census, the in-office (digital) canvassing results differed from the in-field (analog) canvassing results for 61 percent of the blocks tested, according to a final internal report on the trial.
“If there’s an over-representation of folks who have internet at home, we don’t know that the nonresponse follow-up systems as it exists is going to be able to identify who has not been counted,” Byrum says. “We’re not sure there’s any corrective mechanism to identify or measure an undercount.”
There won’t be another dress rehearsal before Census Day (April 1, 2020). The 2018 practice run in Providence County did not exactly inspire confidence, according to James Diossa, the mayor of Central Falls, Rhode Island. Outreach was nonexistent. Worse still, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the citizenship question in March 2018, midway through the test, adding to the confusion. “There was no information, no advertising, no discussions happening from the Census Bureau around this test trial run,” Diossa told CityLab earlier this year.
“Folks would rather not transmit their data through systems that they neither understand nor trust.”
Yet outreach is an enormous obstacle for the 2020 census, thanks to the deep divides in the ways that American reach and use the internet. In New York City, for example, more than 917,000 households lack access to broadband at home—29 percent of the city, per a July report on the census from the Office of the New York City Comptroller. This digital divide tracks neatly with existing borders that define marginalized populations, including race, class, and ethnicity. Nearly half of the homes in Borough Park, Kensington, and Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn lack broadband access at home, while on the Upper East Side that figure is just 15 percent.
Broadband access isn’t the only measure of the digital divide. Sticking with New York, about 38 percent of households without internet access at home pay for data on a mobile device. Smartphones may be ubiquitous among communities of color, particularly in low-income communities, but that isn’t a closing of the digital divide, says Maya Wiley, professor at the New School and founder and co-director of the Digital Equity Laboratory. “Try doing your homework on a mobile phone,” she says.
Black and Hispanic adults, who are more likely to have unreliable access to the internet in the first place, also harbor greater doubts about the census, according to the research from Pew. And no wonder: The Trump administration took great pains to introduce a citizenship question as a way to give an edge to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites. While the effort to add the citizenship question failed, the distrust lingers, and putting the census online raises a whole new category of objection.
“Folks would rather not transmit their data through systems that they neither understand nor trust,” says Melva M. Miller, executive vice president for the Association for a Better New York, a nonprofit that has identified 2020 census outreach as a priority.
Maximizing New York City’s self-response rate is one of her association’s goals going into a census that could see the state as a whole lose billions of dollars in federal funds as well as one or more seats in Congress. Developing messaging to reach hard-to-count communities means coming up with the strategy that’s most likely to reach a trusted figure within a particular demographic, whether that’s a maternal head-of-household, religious leader, or social media platform. And the answer changes wherever you go.
“I was in a conference and sitting on a panel with a woman who is organizing in the state of Arkansas, and she mentioned that there’s been some hesitation among the minority community specifically in Arkansas around filling out the form online. Their preference was to complete the form over the phone,” Miller says. “In our focus groups [in New York], we saw the absolute opposite. Filling out the census over the phone was the least favorite option, even after enumerators knocking on individual doors.”
Public libraries are likely to be the front line in census outreach: That’s where many people who don’t have home access to the internet go to get online. And as trusted arbiters of information across many different communities, librarians have been preparing for the 2020 census for at least two years, according to Larra Clark, deputy director for policy at the Public Library Association (part of the American Library Association). In fact, librarians are already doing some heavy lifting for the 2020 count: They’re helping library users apply for and train for jobs with the Census Bureau, processes that have migrated online with this census.
“Every time we see a government activity move online, whether it’s only online or partly online, every single time we see an impact on our public libraries,” Clark says. “So much about the census is about what public libraries do every day ensuring people have a safe and effective online experience.”
Librarians, faith leaders, and other standard bearers have their work cut out for them. For the 2020 census to succeed, they’ll have to help communities across the country bridge the gulfs of digital illiteracy and lack of accessibility. Success assumes that the government’s untested census technologies hold up to attacks from pirates, hackers, and foreign governments. And if everything works—well, we’ll never know, really. The Census Bureau isn’t conducting a control trial to see how the online census measures up to past efforts.
“If we have a census where a large percentage of the population don’t have faith in the results,”Byrum says, “then we’re in a very poor position when it comes to how we make those decisions or how we litigate going forward regarding these very important issues.”
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Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told senators that most states are being cooperative with the whole-of-government effort to protect voting systems from cyberintrusions, though there are two unnamed states “who aren’t working with us as much as we would like right now.”
Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee grilled Nielsen last week about what is being done to secure the vote in light of Russia’s campaign influence operation in the 2016, and for an inside perspective on that campaign season former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson joined Nielsen at the witness table.
Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) praised DHS for making “great strides towards better understanding elections, better understanding the states, and providing assistance that makes a difference to the security of our elections.”
“But there’s more to do. There’s a long wait time for DHS premier services. States are still not getting all the information they feel they need to secure their systems,” Burr said. “The department’s ability to collect all the information needed to fully understand the problem is an open question, and attributing cyber attacks quickly and authoritatively is a continuing challenge.”
The chairman stressed that “this issue is urgent — if we start to fix these problems tomorrow, we still might not be in time to save the system for 2016 and 2020.”
Vice-Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) noted that in 2016 Russian actors “were able to penetrate Illinois’ voter registration database and access 90,000 voter registration records — they also attempted to target the election systems of at least 20 other states.”
“The intelligence community’s assessment last January concluded that Russia secured and maintained access to multiple elements of U.S. state and local election boards,” he said. “And the truth is clear that 2016 will not be the last of their attempts.”
Nielsen described the DHS arm of the election security mission as providing “assistance and support to those officials in the form of advice, intelligence, technical support, incident response planning, with the ultimate goal of building a more resilient, redundant, and secure election enterprise.”
“Our services are voluntary and not all election officials accept our offer of support. We continue to offer it; we continue to demonstrate its value. But in many cases state and local officials have their own resources and simply don’t require the assistance that we’re offering,” she said.
So far, the secretary told senators, “more than half” of states have signed up for DHS’ cyber hygiene scanning service, an automated remote scan “that gives state and local officials a report identifying vulnerabilities and offering recommendations to mitigate them.”
Another tool DHS is using is information sharing directly with election officials “through trusted third parties such as the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center, or MS-ISAC, and we look forward to the creation of the Election ISAC.”
Nielsen emphasized the need to “rapidly share information about potential compromises with the broader community so that everyone can defend their systems.”
“This collective defense approach makes all election systems more secure,” she said. “We’re also working with state election officials to share classified information on specific threats, including sponsoring up to three officials per state with security clearances and providing one-day read-ins as needed when needed, as we did in mid-February for the secretaries of state and election directors. We are also working with the intelligence community to rapidly declassify information to share with our stakeholders.”
Unlike DHS’ posture in 2016, Nielsen said the department now knows which person to contact in every state to share threat information.
“DHS is leading federal efforts to support and enhance the security of election systems across the country. Yet we do face a technology deficit that exists not just in election infrastructure but across state and local government systems,” she said. “It will require a significant investment over time and will require a whole-of-government solution to ensure continued confidence in our elections.”
Johnson talked about the Obama administration’s reticence to make a wrong move on Russia’s campaign interference and give the appearance that the White House was stepping into the election.
“The reality is that, given our electoral college and our current politics, national elections are decided in this country in a few precincts in a few key swing states. The outcome, therefore, may dance on the head of a pin. The writers of the TV show House of Cards have figured that out. So can others,” Johnson told lawmakers, adding he’s “pleased by reports that state election officials to various degrees are now taking serious steps to fortify cybersecurity of their election infrastructure and that the Department of Homeland Security is currently taking serious steps to work with them in that effort.”
Nielsen said DHS is trying to get security clearances for those three election contact persons in each state, but only “about 20” of those 150 officials have received the full clearance. “We’re granting interim secret clearances as quickly as we can,” she said, adding later that they’re “widely using day read-ins now, so we’re not going to let security clearances hold us up.”
The secretary said “a lot of work” has been accomplished at DHS over the past year on “related processes,” including working with the intelligence community to declassify information as “some of the information does not originate within DHS, so we need to work with our partners to be able to share it.”
“The second one is on victim notification. We have a role there, but so does FBI and so does MS-ISAC, which in this case the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center was in some cases the first organization to identify some of the targeting,” Nielsen said. “So we have to work with whomever originates the information. We all have different roles. So we’ve worked to pull it all together so that we can quickly notify victims of what has occurred.”
Pressed on the current level of cyber threat from malicious actors heading into midterm elections, Nielsen replied that “the threat remains high.”
“We think vigilance is important, and we think there is a lot that we all need to do at all levels of government before we have the midterm elections,” she said. “I will say our decentralized nature both makes it difficult to have a nationwide effect, but also makes it perhaps of greater threat at a local level. And, of course, if it’s a swing state or swing area that can, in turn, have a national effect.”
“So what we’re looking at is everything from registration and validation of voters — so those are the databases, through to the casting and the tabulation of votes, through to the transmission — the election night reporting, and then, of course, the — the certification and the auditing on the back end. All of those are potential vulnerabilities. All of those require different tools and different attention by state and locals,” Nielsen continued, adding that the federal government continues to work with state and local jurisdictions “to also help them look at physical security.”
“They need to make sure that the locations where the voting machines are kept, as well as the tabulation areas, they need access control and very traditional security like we would in other critical infrastructure areas,” she said.
Johnson told senators that “with the benefit of two years’ hindsight it does seem plain… that the Russian effort has not been contained; it has not been deterred.”
“In my experience, superpowers respond to sufficient deterrence and will not engage in behavior that is cost prohibitive. Plainly, that has not occurred and more needs to be done,” the former DHS chief said. “With the benefit of hindsight, the sanctions we issued in late December  have not worked as an effective deterrent and it’s now on the current administration to add to those and follow through on those.”
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After more than two decades, malware attacks have started to hit the corporate bottom line and to show significant losses in quarterly earnings reports. The shipping company Maersk, which was hit by ransomware WannaCry in May,reported a third quarter loss in 2017 of about $200- $300 million. A few weeks later the pharmaceutical company Merck was hit by NotPetya and reported a quarterly loss of around $200 million while FedEd’s subsidiary TNT reported $300 million in losses from the same outbreak. As a result, last spring’s viral ransomware attacks are causing organizations today to take another look at their current security and therefore may offer a silver lining.
“[Its] because of the high profile nature of these incidents and the exploits, business people –organizational leadership — are taking a keener interest in what’s happening in cybersecurity,” said Amit Yoran, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Tenable. “Maybe you have a sexy story around APT and nation-state actors. These events are all forcing a professionalization in our industry — they’re driving a professionalization in our industry — that we haven’t seen before.”
Yoran said the 2017 ransomware attacks didn’t have to be so bad.
“The combination [of WannaCry and Petya] is a face palm moment,” Yoran said. “It’s all so prototypical of our industry. This is very basic stuff. It’s been around for a while. People have known about this for a while.” He added, “This is not like some super-elite hacker. Not some nation state, a sophisticated thing coming down. It’s the basic blocking and tackling that people just still don’t get, they still aren’t getting basic hygiene. People still aren’t going bounds checking. They’re still writing buffer overflows.”
As damaging as the attacks where for some, they may have had a positive effect for others. Yoran said Boards of Directors “today would be negligent to ignore cyber risk to the extent that they rely on technology which pretty much every enterprise does.”
Yoran has observed some organizations now going the extra distance with a security vendor, asking the vendor how the organization can better manage their own security program. These organizations want metrics. And want to know what can be done without putting the entire organization on the line.
“Cyber risk and technology risk are a core components of business risk today,” Yoran said. “Hey, if we’re accepting this business risk, then we want to mature our practices around cyber and that’s a trend that has started to evolve our industry a lot faster than it has been in the past.”
What will reduce the risks to organizations? It depends
“I’d say if somebody’s focused and you have a funded advisory who is focused on intent with any modicum of skill they are going to get into your environment,” Yoran said. “At that point how do you raise the bar? How do you make it more difficult for them? And how do you decrease your time to detection?”
So, given all that, is cybersecurity better today?
“Broadly, things are better — maybe too broadly,” Yoran added with a chuckle. “The risk today is probably higher than it’s ever been as organizations rely more on technology than they have before, as core processes and technologies get more and more complex, more and more interconnected. Complexity is the enemy of security.”
That and perhaps the threats today are more persistent?
“The threat actors are as or more aggressive than they’ve ever been,” Yoran said. “I think from that perspective things are probably worse off than we’ve seen in years past. I’d say for first time, though, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. We can see a path to improvement, which is really driven by outside influence.”
Yoran said the vast majority of the high-profile breaches that occur actually rely on a fairly simple subset of exploits which are occurring out in the wild. And as more organizations exercise better hygiene – bring more professionalism to their cybersecurity programs — that will raise the overall protection against these threats, whether it is targeted or if somebody stumbles upon you as an exposed entity.
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The cybersecurity industry has always had a fortress mentality: Firewall the perimeter! Harden the system! But that mindset has failed—miserably, as each new headline-generating hack reminds us. Even if you do patch all your software, the way Equifax didn’t, or you randomize all your passwords, the way most of us…
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While 18- to 26-year-olds are showing interest in cybersecurity, there’s a disconnect in the language around the field, skills and opportunities. BOSTON — When the National Cyber Security Alliance asked 18- to 26-year-olds what skills they are looking for in a career, researchers uncovered a list that would, if framed…
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Over 1.5 million people dated last week thanks to dating app Tinder, according to company stats. It’s hard to say how many of them took it farther than first base, but public health officials say one thing is certain: dating apps are quickly becoming the primary way partners connect. The rise of online dating has correlated with another more disturbing trend: STD rates are also very much on the rise in the U.S. The total combined cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis reported in 2015, the most recent year for which data are available, rose to the highest numbers ever in the U. Read More….
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Justice Dept. officials say that details of a hacking tool used to access a terrorist’s iPhone should not be released because it may still be “useful” to federal investigators. The government is fighting a case against three news organizations, including …
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I just got Tinder a couple weeks ago, and FINDING LOVE IS HARD, GUYS! Sure, there are a lot of fish in the sea, but some of those fish are jellyfish and some are sharks and some are just plankton robots trying to get you to follow them on Skype so they can sell you bRaNd NeW ipHonE$. That metaphor may have gotten away from me. My point is, online dating can be tough. Especially when you come across a user who seems less interested in sharing an intimate connection with another human being who has a similar point of view, sense of humor and sexual fetish, and more interested in the health and viability of your internal organs for transplants. Read More….
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