social networks Tagged ‘social networks’

Is SKYPE Watching You?

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Did Microsoft Give Skype The Ability To Snoop On Calls?

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

Microsoft is stuck in another swarm of controversy again, with reports claiming that it now has the ability to spy on its users via Skype.

Reports suggest that since Microsoft purchased Skype, the online video chat company, it has shifted its answer when asked whether it could conduct wiretaps.

Skype has been known in the past to go on record saying it could not conduct wiretaps due to its “peer-to-peer architecture and encryption techniques,” which has effectively frustrated law enforcements who have wanted to use the service for their benefit.

However, since its May 2011 Microsoft purchase, the language Skype uses to answer questions about whether its technology is used for wiretaps has changed.

Microsoft has switched some of the peer-to-peer network technology to work on its dedicated Linux servers instead, making it easier to “wiretap” conversations.

With a peer-to-peer network, each user is a “node” that helps to connect other users, while some users are “supernodes” that hold more responsibility for traffic. Some of the “supernodes” have been switched to the Linux servers instead.

Some hackers claim that Microsoft is re-engineering these supernodes to make it easier for law enforcement to monitor calls.

It is essentially a man-in-the-middle attack, and it is made all the easier because Microsoft—who owns Skype and knows the keys used for the service’s encryption—is helping,” Tim Verry of ExtremeTech wrote in a story earlier in July.

Mark Gillett, Skype’s Corporate VP of Product Engineering & Operations, told Verry that the changes were made to “improve the Skype user experience.”

“We believe this approach has immediate performance, scalability and availability benefits for the hundreds of millions of users that make up the Skype community,” he told Verry.

However, a December 2009 Microsoft patent application describes “recording agents” that legally intercept VoIP phone calls. The patent application is said by Slashdot to be one of Microsoft’s more elaborate and detailed patent papers.

The document provides Microsoft’s idea about the nature, positioning and feature set of recording agents that silently record the communication between two or more parties,” Slashdot shows in a post. This patent was granted to Microsoft a month after Skype was purchased, in June 2011.

Ryan Gallagher of Slate wrote that when he tried asking Microsoft whether it could facilitate wiretap requests, it would not confirm or deny the question, saying that Skype “co-operates with law enforcement agencies as much as is legally and technically possible.”

from:    http://www.redorbit.com/news/technology/1112662597/skype-snooping/
redOrbit (http://s.tt/1iTmI)

On Maintaining Brain Health As One Ages

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

Maintain Your Brain: The Secrets to Aging Success

ScienceDaily (Apr. 27, 2012) — Aging may seem unavoidable, but that’s not necessarily so when it comes to the brain. So say researchers in the April 27th issue of the Cell Press journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences based on counterintuitive evidence that it is what you do in old age that matters when it comes to maintaining a youthful brain rather than what you did earlier in life.

“Although some memory functions do tend to decline as we get older, several elderly show well-preserved functioning and this is related to a well-preserved, youth-like brain,” says Lars Nyberg, Professor of Neuroscience at Umeå University in Sweden.

Education won’t save your brain — PhDs are as likely as high school dropouts to experience memory loss with old age, the researchers say. Don’t count on your job either. Those with a complex or demanding career may enjoy a limited advantage, but those benefits quickly dwindle after retirement. Engagement is the secret to success. Those who are socially, mentally and physically stimulated reliably show greater cognitive performance with a brain that appears younger than its years.

“There is quite solid evidence that staying physically and mentally active is a way towards brain maintenance,” Nyberg says.

The researchers say this new take on successful aging represents an important shift in focus for the field. Much attention in the past has gone instead to understanding ways in which the brain copes with or compensates for cognitive decline in aging. The research team now argues for the importance of avoiding those age-related brain changes in the first place. Genes play a role, but life choices and other environmental factors, especially in old age, are critical.

Elderly people generally do have more trouble remembering meetings or names, Nyberg says. But those memory losses often happen later than many often think, after the age of 60. Older people also continue to accumulate knowledge and to use what they know effectively, often to very old ages.

“Taken together, a wide range of findings provides converging evidence for marked heterogeneity in brain aging,” the scientists write. “Critically, some older adults show little or no brain changes relative to younger adults, along with intact cognitive performance, which supports the notion of brain maintenance. In other words, maintaining a youthful brain, rather than responding to and compensating for changes, may be the key to successful memory aging.”

from:    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120427163335.htm

Save Internet Freedom

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

The Internet on Strike

What happened when major sites went on strike to offer a taste of a censored Internet.
by Brooke Jarvis
posted Jan 18, 2012

 

Google homepage protests SOPA

Google used its homepage to protest SOPA and PIPA.

Update, Jan. 19: Following the blackout protests, 18 Senators—including 7 former sponsors of the bill—withdrew their support for the Protect IP Act, leaving it without enough votes.


Today, if you tried to find an apartment on Craigslist, Google photos of cute cats, or look up the 14th president on Wikipedia, you surely noticed something strange. These sites, cornerstones of our Internet lives, are blacked out today—and they’re not alone. A massive digital strike is underway, all in protest of what sounds like friendly legislation: the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and its peer, the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate.

So why is the Internet on strike? Because what’s at stake in the bills, opponents say, is a lot bigger than LOLCats. According to the ACLU, the legislation “would not only impact unlawful infringing content, but also a wealth of completely legal content that has nothing to do with online piracy.”

SOPA would allow owners of intellectual property to cripple foreign sites that are using their copyrighted material illegally (for example, by demanding that search engines not index them, or that ad agencies not contract with them). But since this process would be governed by the “good faith belief” that sites are infringing, rather than judicial review, there’s a lot of worry that it would be misused.

Gizmodo explains:

Potential for abuse is rampant. As Public Knowledge points out, Google could easily take it upon itself to delist every viral video site on the internet with a “good faith belief” that they’re hosting copyrighted material. Leaving YouTube as the only major video portal. Comcast (an ISP) owns NBC (a content provider). Think they might have an interest in shuttering some rival domains? Under SOPA, they can do it without even asking for permission. […]

SOPA also includes an “anti-circumvention” clause, which holds that telling people how to work around SOPA is nearly as bad as violating its main provisions. In other words: if your status update links to The Pirate Bay, Facebook would be legally obligated to remove it. Ditto tweets, YouTube videos, Tumblr or WordPress posts, or sites indexed by Google. And if Google, Twitter, WordPress, Facebook, etc. let it stand? They face a government “enjoinment.” They could and would be shut down.

The resources it would take to self-police are monumental for established companies, and unattainable for start-ups. SOPA would censor every online social outlet you have, and prevent new ones from emerging.

In fact, SOPA has been having a rough road of late: the Obama administration came out against it, knocking it off course for the time being, and three co-sponsors of the bills withdrew their support as the Internet blackout (which the L.A. Times estimates to include some 10,000 websites) began. But PIPA is still set for mark-up next week.

And so the protest continues. Google, in a petition it’s circulating, states, “There’s no need to make American social networks, blogs and search engines censor the Internet or undermine the existing laws that have enabled the Web to thrive, creating millions of U.S. jobs.” A group of artists sent an open letter to Congress, explaining that “copyright law exists to promote the arts, but the new penalties in PIPA could be used against the new social media channels we depend on to make a living, and endanger freedom of expression.”

from:    http://www.yesmagazine.org/blogs/brooke-jarvis/the-internet-on-strike