Entries with tag us government.

US Government Mistakenly Releases Bitcoin Auction List

The US Marshals Service accidentally sent an email containing a private list of people interested in bidding on government-seized bitcoins to all of the bidders who had sent queries in regarding the auction. The 27 June 2014 auction of 30,000 bitcoins (worth $17.9 million)—which the US Federal Bureau of Investigation seized in an October 2013 raid related to the controversial Silk Road anonymous marketplace—was to have been anonymous, with bidders not knowing who their competitors are. The Marshals Service’s message to 40 potential bidders concerned new information about the auction. However, the agency carbon-copied, rather than blind carbon-copied, the recipient list, making all the names visible.  (BBC)(CoinDesk)(Tech Crunch)

US Tax Authority Misses XP Upgrade Deadline, Will Pay Millions for Security Patches

The 8 April 2014 end of support for Microsoft Windows XP poses a security risk for those still using the operating system, which includes businesses and government agencies that have failed to upgrade. Notable among them is the US Internal Revenue Service. Although the agency planned to migrate to Windows 7, in a budget hearing today, the agency said it needs $30 million to complete the task. Despite six years’ notice of the end of support, a mere 52,000 of the tax agency’s 110,000 Windows-powered computers have been upgraded to Windows 7. IRS commissioner John Koskinen claims this was but one of several IT projects worth a total of $300 million delayed because of budget issues. A portion of the $30 million needed to finish the task would be paid to Microsoft for Custom Support, a service providing help for customers with outdated software. Microsoft raised its prices for Custom Support from a cap of $200,000 per customer for the first year of service to an average of $200 per PC for the first year of service. Based on this, the IRS would pay Microsoft $11.6 million for a single year of Custom Support. The remainder would likely be used to purchase new PCs to replace the oldest systems. The IRS is not alone. The UK government has reportedly paid roughly $9.2 million for security patches for Windows XP, Office 2003, and Exchange 2003 covering them for the next 12 months.  (SlashDot)(Engadget)(Network World)

Microsoft, Google Promise to Sue US Government Regarding Surveillance Data

Microsoft and Google said they will sue the US government to disclose more information about government requests to them for their customers’ personal data. The announcement was made by Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith in a blog post. He stated the firms “remain concerned with the government’s continued unwillingness to permit us to publish sufficient data relating to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) orders” for user information. He contends Microsoft has “a clear right under the US Constitution to share more information with the public.” The government has, since details of its surveillance program were leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, limited companies as to how much information they can disclose about requests for customer data, saying this could harm national security interests. The government recently turned down requests from several businesses asking for permission to disclose such information. The companies did this after receiving public criticism for allegedly being too willing to cooperate with the government in surrendering users’ personal data. (All Things D)(Microsoft on the Issues)
 

Apple Objects to Proposed Punishments in e-Book Case

Apple attorney Orin Snyder says the US Department of Justice’s revised proposed punishment for colluding with publishers to set electronic book prices is “a 12-page broadside masquerading as a brief” that provides competing e-book vendor Amazon with a significant advantage. Apple is appealing last month’s verdict that found the company guilty of working with five major publishers to set e-book prices. The initial reforms sought by the US government included a 10-year injunction on Apple prohibiting it from negotiating contracts with the publishers, the company letting other e-book retailers link to their online stores from iOS apps, and the appointment of an external antitrust monitor. Apple objected to the proposed reforms, stating that they were vague, overreaching, and unwarranted. It also said the proposed punishment “introduces needless regulation and complexity to an evolving marketplace.” The judge in the case ordered government and Apple officials to meet and discuss remedies. (GigaOm)(CNET)
 

US Announces Robocall Challenge Winners

The US Federal Trade Commission announced the winners of its Robocall Challenge, designed to find ways to stop the growing number of automated, unsolicited prerecorded telemarketing calls to consumers. The FTC awarded prizes for a solution that an individual or small group proposed and prizes for one that groups of 10 or more developed. Serdar Danis, a computer engineer, and freelance software developer Aaron Foss shared the $50,000 individual prize. Google engineers received the large-group prize, which did not include a monetary award. All these solutions use a whitelist/blacklist approach to filter unwanted calls. Both of the individual proposals use a CAPTCHA test to block robocalls. Danis’ approach is reportedly software based, while Foss’ is cloud-based. The Google approach relies on a crowdsourced list of offenders. The agency said its challenge, launched in October 2012, is a part of its “ongoing campaign against illegal, prerecorded telemarketing calls.” The winners were chosen from almost 800 submissions. (Forbes)(Ars Technica)(United States Federal Trade Commission)

US Implies Iran Culpable for Cyberattacks, Some Claim Fear-Mongering

The US government has said Iran is behind recent cyberattacks targeting US banks and Middle East oil operations, according to news reports. CNN reports that government officials say various attacks were carried out by individuals working with the Iranian government. US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta mentioned the attacks in a speech last week but did not say Iran was behind them. Charles Cooper, an editor with the tech site CNET, contends the government claims are fear-mongering by the Obama administration to gain support for controversial cybersecurity legislation. Tech writer John Dvorak agreed but said, “Maybe the good news is that people will get virus protection, check for Trojans, and learn how to secure systems better.”
(CNN)(CNET)(Dark Reading)(PC Mag)

Smartphone Application Helps the Visually Impaired Count Currency

The US government has funded a new Android-based smartphone application that helps the blind and visually impaired count their cash. Users scan paper currency with their phone’s camera and the application recognizes the denomination and reads it aloud. The US Departments of Education and Treasury, along with Apps4Android—a nonprofit group that promotes software for helping the disabled access technology—developed the free IDEAL Currency Identifier. The application is available online at http://www.moneyfactory.gov .
(PhysOrg)(The Associated Press @ Myrtle Beach Online)(U.S. Department of the Treasury)(Bureau of Engraving and Printing)

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