Iranians charged with cyberattacks on US banks, New York dam

ZDNet

A grand jury indicted the seven alleged cyberattackers, who had links to the Iranian government, for an "extensive campaign" which lasted just shy of six months. During their campaign, they are said to have carried out numerous distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, with one of the attackers separately gaining unauthorized access to a dam's industrial automation control (SCADA) system. The seven men are accused of disabling bank websites, preventing customers from gaining access to their online accounts, and costing the companies "tens of millions of dollars in remediation costs" in fending off the attacks in various incidents spanning 2011 to 2013. Court papers say Bank of America, Capital One, ING, PNC Banks, and the New York Stock Exchange were targets. One of the men charged, Hamid Firoozi, was indicted on a separate count of hacking into a system the Bowman Dam in New York, which according to the Justice Dept.


Accused Russian hacker extradited to U.S. to face charges he attacked Dropbox, LinkedIn

USATODAY

An Associated Press investigation finds that Russian cyber spies exploiting a national vulnerability in cybersecurity are trying to break into the emails of scores of people working on military drone technology. An accused Russian hacker blamed for attacking LinkedIn, Dropbox and Formspring is finally facing American prosecutors after a lengthy extradition fight in the Czech Republic. Yevgeniy Aleksandrovich Nikulin is due to appear in U.S. federal court in California on Thursday for a detention hearing. It's unclear whether Nikulin has any connection to the Russian troll farm the Internet Research Agency, which is widely blamed by American authorities for interfering in the 2016 presidential election. But only two days after Nikulin's arrest, American officials for the first time publicly warned that the Russian government was directing efforts to influence the election by hacking and releasing private information.


Facebook heads to Canada in search of the next big AI advance

#artificialintelligence

The first genuinely impressive AI assistant may well have a Canadian accent. Facebook announced today that it is tapping into Canada's impressive supply of artificial-intelligence talent and expertise by creating a major AI research center in Montreal. Several big recent advances in AI can be traced back to Canadian research labs, and Facebook is hoping that the new lab may help it take advantage of whatever comes next. The new center will focus, in particular, on an area of AI known as reinforcement learning (see "10 Breakthrough Technologies 2017: Reinforcement Learning"). The center will seek to apply this and other novel approaches to language, with the aim of producing more coherent and useful virtual assistants, says Yann LeCun, director of AI research at Facebook.


After Facebook lobbying failed, Google takes aim at U.S. law banning use of biometric data without consent

The Japan Times

SAN FRANCISCO – Alphabet Inc. is pushing efforts to roll back the most comprehensive biometric privacy law in the U.S., even as the company and its peers face heightened scrutiny after the unauthorized sharing of data at Facebook Inc. While Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg were publicly apologizing this month for failing to protect users' information, Google's lobbyists were drafting measures to de-fang an Illinois law recognized as the most rigorous consumer privacy statute in the country. Their ambition: to strip language from a decade-old policy that regulates the use of fingerprints, iris scans and facial recognition technology, and insert a loophole for companies embracing the use of biometrics. Google is trying to exempt photos from the Illinois law at a time when it's fighting a lawsuit in the state that threatens billions of dollars in potential damages. The world's largest search engine is facing claims that it violated the privacy of millions of users by gathering and storing biometric data without their consent.


WhatsApp rolls out full encryption to a billion messenger users

The Guardian

WhatsApp is updating its messenger app so that every text and voice call on one of the world's most popular apps will be protected with strong encryption – potentially putting millions more conversations outside the purview of authorities. The development at the messenger company, which is owned by Facebook, is striking given Silicon Valley's recent staredown with authorities over user data privacy. The FBI dropped a court battle with Apple over its iPhone encryption, and Brazilian police recently arrested a Facebook executive because WhatsApp couldn't provide messages sent by a criminal suspect. None of that appears to have deterred WhatsApp founder Jan Koum, who grew up in Soviet-era Ukraine amid surveillance fears and has said that he often heard his mother say things like, "This isn't a telephone conversation." The Guardian reported on WhatsApp's plans in March.