Muneeb Ali and Ryan Shea are the co-founders of Blockstack, a project to rebuild the internet using blockchain technology so that individuals can reclaim direct control over their own identities, contacts, and data. The goal is to bring the property rights we enjoy in the physical world to cyberspace.
These two Princeton-trained computer scientists—Ali completed his Ph.D. last month with a speciality in distributed systems—believe that today’s internet is fundamentally broken. Users are forced to trust companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook to maintain our online identities and personal information. They store our files in giant data centers that are increasingly vulnerable to hackers. And the Snowden leaks revealed that the National Security Agency has strong armed these tech giants into handing over users’ personal data without bothering to obtain court-issued warrants.
“Google has this saying, ‘don’t be evil,'” says Ali. “Maybe a company shouldn’t be powerful enough that they’re sitting there thinking, ‘should I be evil or not?'”
So how does Blockstack propose to alter cloud computing, which has bought enormous efficiencies to the tech sector? Ali and Shea say they’ve worked out a way to break up internet data centers into virtual storage lockers that are fully encrypted, so individual users are the only ones who hold the keys to their own data.
“If you’re a Dropbox engineer, you can go through my files today,” says Ali. “But if I use Dropbox through Blockstack, they have no visibility into the data at all.”
This new decentralized architecture is possible thanks to the invention of a new type of distributed database called a “blockchain,” which was introduced to the world in 2008 as a component of the peer-to-peer digital currency bitcoin. The blockchain was designed as a decentralized system for keeping track of who owns what bitcoin, but in the last nine years an entire industry has emerged that all about integrating the blockchain into everything from real estate markets to driverless car technology.
Shea describes the blockchain as a virtual “whitepages the community maintains together,” which “anyone can add to” but “nobody controls”—a record that doesn’t require a central entity to guarantee its veracity. This shared white pages lists the location of each users’ encrypted data lockers.
Essential online functions that can be moved to the blockchain include registering unique identities and keeping track of each users’ personal contacts. On this new internet, applications like Facebook and Twitter will still exist, but they’ll have far less power and responsibility.
“At Blockstack, we’re enabling small, open-source groups to grow and compete with the large players,” says Shea.
What will the Blockstack internet mean for Silicon Valley? Shea predicts a new wave of tech firms will emerge. “I believe this will create a much larger economy and a lot more prosperity for everyone.”
Written, shot, produced, and edited by Jim Epstein. Hosted by Nick Gillespie. Additional camera by Kevin Alexander.
Common Consensus by The Franks, Creative Commons Attribution license.
Mario Bava Sleeps In a Little Later Than He Expected To by Chris Zabriskie, Creative Commons Attribution license.
Talvihorros by the Blue Cathedral, Creative Commons Attribution license.
What True Self, Feels Bogus, Let’s Watch Jason X by Chris Zabriskie, Creative Commons Attribution license.
Canon in D Major by Kevin MacLeod, Creative Commons Attribution license.
Nick Gillespie is the editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason TV and the co-author, with Matt Welch, of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong With America (2011/2012). He is also a columnist for The Daily Beast.
The Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month threatened to subpoena the firm, Fusion GPS, after it refused to answer questions and provide records to the panel identifying who financed the error-ridden dossier, which was circulated during the election and has sparked much of the Russia scandal now engulfing the White House.
Intel chiefs told Trump that Russia has dirt on him
What is the company hiding? Fusion GPS describes itself as a “research and strategic intelligence firm” founded by “three former Wall Street Journal investigative reporters.” But congressional sources says it’s actually an opposition-research group for Democrats, and the founders, who are more political activists than journalists, have a pro-Hillary, anti-Trump agenda.
“These weren’t mercenaries or hired guns,” a congressional source familiar with the dossier probe said. “These guys had a vested personal and ideological interest in smearing Trump and boosting Hillary’s chances of winning the White House.”
Fusion GPS was on the payroll of an unidentified Democratic ally of Clinton when it hired a long-retired British spy to dig up dirt on Trump. In 2012, Democrats hired Fusion GPS to uncover dirt on GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. And in 2015, Democrat ally Planned Parenthood retained Fusion GPS to investigate pro-life activists protesting the abortion group.
More, federal records show a key co-founder and partner in the firm was a Hillary Clinton donor and supporter of her presidential campaign.
In September 2016, while Fusion GPS was quietly shopping the dirty dossier on Trump around Washington, its co-founder and partner Peter R. Fritsch contributed at least $1,000 to the Hillary Victory Fund and the Hillary For America campaign, Federal Election Commission data show. His wife also donated money to Hillary’s campaign.
Property records show that in June 2016, as Clinton allies bankrolled Fusion GPS, Fritsch bought a six-bedroom, five-bathroom home in Bethesda, Md., for $2.3 million.
Fritsch did not respond to requests for comment. A lawyer for Fusion GPS said the firm’s work is confidential.
Sources say Fusion GPS had its own interest, beyond those of its clients, in promulgating negative gossip about Trump.
Fritsch, who served as the Journal’s bureau chief in Mexico City and has lectured at the liberal Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute, married into a family with Mexican business interests. His wife, Beatriz Garcia, formerly worked as an executive at Grupo Dina, a manufacturer of trucks and buses in Mexico City that benefits from NAFTA, which Trump opposes.
Fritsch’s Fusion GPS partner Thomas Catan, who grew up in Britain, once edited a business magazine in Mexico, moreover. A third founding partner, Glenn Simpson, is reported to have shared dark views of both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump. Before joining Fusion GPS, Simpson did opposition research for a former Clinton White House operative.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is also investigating whether the FBI has wrongly relied on the anti-Trump dossier and its author, Christopher Steele — the old spy who was hired by Fusion GPS to build a Russia file on Trump — to aid its ongoing espionage investigation into the Trump campaign and its possible ties to Moscow.
The FBI received a copy of the Democrat-funded dossier in August, during the heat of the campaign, and is said to have contracted in October to pay Steele $50,000 to help corroborate the dirt on Trump — a relationship that “raises substantial questions about the independence” of the bureau in investigating Trump, warned Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.
Senate investigators are demanding to see records of communications between Fusion GPS and the FBI and the Justice Department, including any contacts with former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, now under congressional investigation for possibly obstructing the Hillary Clinton email probe, and deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, who is under investigation by the Senate and the Justice inspector general for failing to recuse himself despite financial and political connections to the Clinton campaign through his Democrat activist wife. Senate investigators have singled out McCabe as the FBI official who negotiated with Steele.
Like Fusion GPS, the FBI has failed to cooperate with congressional investigators seeking documents.
Steele contracted with Fusion GPS to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia starting in June 2016, whereupon he outlandishly claimed that Hillary campaign hackers were “paid by both Trump’s team and the Kremlin” and that the operation was run out of Putin’s office. He also fed Fusion GPS and its Hillary-allied clients incredulous gossip about Trump hating the Obamas so much that he hired hookers to urinate on a bed they slept in at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton, and that Russian intelligence recorded the pee party in case they needed to blackmail Trump.
Never mind that none of the rumors were backed by evidence or even credible sourcing (don’t bother trying to confirm his bed-wetting yarn, Steele advised, as “all direct witnesses have been silenced”). Steele reinforced his paying customers’ worst fears about Trump, and they rewarded him for it with a whopping $250,000 in payments.
But it’s now clear his “intelligence reports,” which together run more than 35-pages long, were for the most part worthless. And the clients who paid Fusion GPS (which claims to go “beyond standard due diligence”) for them got taken to the cleaners.
Steele’s most sensational allegations remain unconfirmed. For instance, his claim that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen held a “clandestine meeting” on the alleged hacking scheme in Prague with “Kremlin officials” in August 2016 unraveled when Cohen denied ever visiting Prague, his passport showed no stamps showing he left or entered the US at the time, witnesses accounted for his presence here, and Czech authorities found no evidence Cohen went to Prague.
Steele hadn’t worked in Moscow since the 1990s and didn’t actually travel there to gather intelligence on Trump firsthand. He relied on third-hand “friend of friend” sourcing. In fact, most of his claimed Russian sources spoke not directly to him but “in confidence to a trusted compatriot” who, in turn, spoke to Steele — and always anonymously.
But his main source may have been Google. Most of the information branded as “intelligence” was merely rehashed from news headlines or cut and pasted — replete with errors — from Wikipedia.
In fact, much of the seemingly cloak-and-dagger information connecting Trump and his campaign advisers to Russia had already been reported in the media at the time Steele wrote his monthly reports.
In the same August report, for example, Steele connected a Moscow trip taken by then-Trump campaign adviser Michael Flynn to “the Russian operation” to hack the election. But there was nothing secret about the trip, which had taken place months earlier and had been widely reported.
And there was nothing untoward about it. It was a dinner celebrating the 10th birthday of Russian TV network RT, and Flynn sat at the same table with Putin as US Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.
The real question is why anyone would take anything in the sketchy report seriously.
But even the CIA gave it credence. The dossier ended up attached to a Top Secret intelligence briefing on Russia for President Obama, even though his intelligence czar last month testified “We couldn’t corroborate the sourcing.” The FBI, moreover, has been using it for investigative leads on Trump associates like Carter Page, even though former FBI Director James Comey this month described the dossier as “salacious and unverified.”
And of course, Democratic leaders in Congress keep referring to it to cook up more charges against Trump, while liberal media continue to use it as a road map to find “scoops” on Trump in the “Russiagate” conspiracy they’re peddling — still hoping against hope that the central thrust of the report — that Trump entered into an unholy alliance with the Russian government during the election — will one day prove true and bring about the downfall of his presidency.
It looks like Microsoft is in trouble again. This time not for its critical vulnerabilities in Windows operating system but for a massive data leak in which 32TB of highly sensitive Windows 10 related data has been dumped online.
According to a report from TheRegister, it is believed that the data was stolen from Microsoft’s in-house systems in March. Those who have seen the data claim that the leaked files belong to Microsoft’s internal Windows operating system builds and in-depth details about its core source code.
Furthermore, TheRegister reported that the data was uploaded on a website called betaarchive.com, a collectors website for beta software, games, applications, and abandonware. But a discussion topic on the site denies uploading of any such data.
More:Microsoft Warn Users of Cyber Attacks on Windows Software Update System
After a brief analysis, TheRegister has confirmed that the data is updated to last week, and includes “The source to the base Windows 10 hardware drivers plus Redmond’s PnP code, its USB and Wi-Fi stacks, its storage drivers, and ARM-specific OneCore kernel code.”
Furthermore, there are several never been released builds for Windows 10, which included testing, troubleshooting and debugging tools used by Microsoft internally. Also, there’s a Windows 10 Mobile Adaptation Kit, which looks like an unannounced toolset designed for Windows 10 to run on mobile devices.
This means that anyone who has downloaded the data and knew how to take advantage of it can exploit for security vulnerabilities and carry large-scale cyber attacks just like WannaCry ransomware attack which exploited Server Message Block (SMB) vulnerability in unpatched Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 (or earlier OS) systems.
At this time, it is unclear if Microsoft has suffered a hack attack or someone from the inside has done the damage. However, it can be assumed that the data is highly sensitive for Windows and jackpot for hackers since the data is still available for anyone to download on the website.
We have contacted Microsoft for a comment. Stay tuned.
With plunging prices and new technologies free cell phone service is inevitable by 2020
The New Sticker Shock: Plunging Cellphone Bills
The New Sticker Shock: Plunging Cellphone Bills
By Ryan Knutson
Customers are used to cellphone bill shock, but not like this.
The cost of U.S. cellular service is rapidly plunging, reversing years of increases that have squeezed consumers’ budgets and generated huge profits for wireless companies.
Americans are using their smartphones more than ever to stream videos, surf the web and browse Facebook. But telecommunications companies are losing their power to raise prices for using their networks, in part because the U.S. cellphone market is nearing saturation. That has kicked off a vicious price war among the four national wireless carriers.
The consumer-price index for wireless phone service, an indicator of current offers from cellphone service providers, dropped 12.5% in May from a year ago, according to the Labor Department. The index earlier fell 13% in April, the largest decline in the history of the category, prompting Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen to say earlier this month it was a factor in the country’s low inflation.
Beyond the consumer impact, the rapid collapse in the industry’s pricing power will ripple through its profit margins, federal regulations and antitrust law.
T-Mobile US Inc. and Sprint Corp., the third and fourth largest carriers, recently rekindled talks about a merger, according to people familiar with the matter. The two previously discussed combining in 2014 but backed down in the face of regulatory opposition.
The rout could continue when the many consumers who haven’t felt the effects of price drops, unaware they can lower their monthly bills, call their carriers to demand better deals.
Selina Sosa, who runs a nonprofit near Dallas, cut her monthly bill by about a third in less than six months. Last December, she switched carriers from AT&T Inc. to Verizon Communications Inc., reducing her payment for three phones from $330 to $279.
In April, Ms. Sosa called Verizon with a billing question and an agent offered to switch her into an unlimited-data plan and lower her monthly bill by another $57. “I didn’t even ask to reduce my payment,” she said, adding she was relieved to save the extra cash.
Six years ago, the number of active cellphones surpassed the U.S. population. About 80% of Americans currently own a smartphone, according to CTIA, an industry trade group. Many have multiple devices. Consumers are also keeping their smartphones for longer periods, which means fewer customers are up for grabs. Offers from wireless providers are becoming increasingly extreme. Sprint this month launched a short-term promotion to give away a free year of wireless service to new customers who supply their own mobile phones. The move comes months before Apple Inc. is expected to introduce its newest iPhone, which is when carriers typically roll out discounts.
The competition grew so intense during the first three months of this year that Verizon, the largest national carrier, suffered its first-ever quarterly subscriber loss. AT&T Inc. and Sprint also lost customers, and the industry’s total revenue growth slowed to 1% from a year ago, its lowest-ever rate, according to research from investment bank UBS. The quarter’s big winner was T-Mobile, which has been offering plans with favorable features.
A major reason for the steep decline in the wireless consumer-price index is companies’ return to unlimited-data plans. Back in 2010 and 2011, AT&T and Verizon ended their all-you-can-eat plans for smartphone customers and imposed monthly caps on usage. Executives for years said unlimited plans made little economic sense.
In February, Verizon brought back unlimited plans to counter a wave of customer defections to T-Mobile and Sprint, which had both rolled out aggressive unlimited offers. Days later, AT&T responded with a new unlimited plan of its own. With the new plans, making calls and texting are essentially free. Expensive overage fees that carriers impose when users exceed their monthly usage limit are also going away.
Verizon now charges $80 a month for an unlimited talk, text and data plan for a single line. Sprint charges $50 for a similar plan in the first year. In 2011, an unlimited Verizon plan cost $120 and one from Sprint cost $110.
p style=”margin-bottom:.24in;border:none;padding:0;font-variant:normal;letter-spacing:normal;font-style:normal;font-weight:normal;orphans:2;widows:2;” align=”left”>Verizon Chief Executive Lowell McAdam said at a conference in May that adopters of its current unlimited plan are mostly people who used to have pricier subscriptions. He also predicts many customers with lower-price, capped-data plans will soon start paying more for unlimited service to avoid having to keep track of their monthly data usage.