In the news: 5 tech news stories worth another look

Pete Roythorne

Does the name “Rob Joyce” ring a bell?

Chances are it does not, unless you work for his super-secretive team at the NSA — or heard him speak at January’s Usenix Enigma security conference in San Francisco.

According to WIRED, “Rob Joyce, the nation’s hacker-in-chief, took up the ironic task of telling a roomful of computer security professionals and academics how to keep people like him and his elite corps out of their systems.”

Joyce leads U.S. govenment’s top hacking team, a division within the NSA known as Tailored Access Operations (TAO). The group is tasked with hacking the systems of foreign adversaries and allies alike.

With the NSA for more than 25 years, Joyce assumed the role of TAO leader shortly before Edward Snowden brought the agency’s practices to the world’s attention.

“His talk was mostly a compendium of best security practices,” the article says. “But he did drop a few of the not-so-secret secrets of the NSA’s success…”

See for yourself.

What else made this round-up? Read on:

A Presidential priority

President Barack Obama wants computer science taught in all U.S. elementary, middle and high schools. And he wants upwards of $4 billion in spending to make it a reality.

In his weekly radio address, Obama said knowing how to use computers isn’t enough. Knowing how to program them is critical.

“Today’s auto mechanics aren’t just sliding under cars to change the oil; they’re working on machines that run on as many as 100 million lines of code. That’s 100 times more than the Space Shuttle. Nurses are analyzing data and managing electronic health records. Machinists are writing computer programs,” Obama said.

Re/code reports “only 10 percent of U.S. high schools offer advanced placement computer science classes, and in 22 states such classes don’t count toward graduation requirements.”

‘An awareness-action shortfall’

What spooks you more: Losing your online privacy or losing your chief source of income?

If your answer is the former, you’re like 92% of respondents to a recent survey by the National Cybersecurity Alliance. In fact, data privacy topped the list of concerns. The “loss of personal income” ranked second (81 percent).

“Consumers are increasingly aware, interested and concerned about their privacy and they’re acting on it,” said Michael Kaiser, Executive Director National Cybersecurity Alliance. “However, if Internet users knew more, they would do more. The research points to an awareness-action shortfall that belies a growing confidence in Americans’ personal ability to protect their online data.

For quick consumption of the findings, read this infographic from the TRUSTe/NCSA Consumer Privacy Index.

DDoS attacks rising

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are growing bigger, more frequent and more widespread, according to an annual security report by Arbor Networks.

According to SCMagazine.com, the Worldwide Infrastructure Security Report says the largest DDoS attack it recorded last year was 500 Gbps. In 2014, the largest recorded attack was 400 Gbps.

“Many respondents from enterprises and data centers said that as a result of a DDoS attack, firewall and IPS devices had failed. Around half of data centers suffered DDoS attacks which maxed out their entire Internet bandwidth – an increase from 33 percent last year.”

Such attacks on DNS servers jumped from 17 to 30 percent. However, the article says “17 percent of service providers and 26 percent of enterprises still had no dedicated DNS security resources.”

Rewriting its rules

Private gun sales on Facebook, as well as Facebook-owned Instagram, are officially prohibited.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the ban strictly applies to “private transactions.” Licensed gun sellers will not be affected.

“The social network has been grappling with gun sales for years,” the article says. “In 2014, it agreed to shield advertisements for guns from minors after mounting pressure from gun control advocates.”

Facebook has 1.59 billion monthly active users. Marijuana, pharmaceutical and illegal drug sales are already banned.

Gun control advocates celebrated their win, Reuters reported.

“Moms are grateful for the leadership shown by Facebook today,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, “which will prevent dangerous people from getting guns and save American lives.”