Topic internet

Wikipedia bans hundreds more paid editor accounts and deletes affected articles

in internet on (#K48C)
story imageThis morning, Wikipedia parent organization Wikimedia announced they have banned 381 user accounts that were engaging in "undisclosed paid advocacy." In other words, they were posting promotional articles to the user-editable online encyclopedia, without revealing that they were paid to do so. The articles being posted were related to businesses, business people or artists, and they often included biased or skewed information alongside unattributed material and potential copyright violations. As a result of the investigation, editors on the site have also deleted 210 articles that were created by these accounts.

Back in October 2013 Wikipedia first sent a cease-and-desist letter to the firm Wiki-PR, which promoted its ability to help article subjects claim their "top spot in Google search results." Wikipedia said then that it banned 300 accounts associated with the firm (which argued it only had 45 people working for them.) That makes today's 381 accounts ban actually larger than the Wiki-PR scandal.

The internet backbone

in internet on (#JKEF)
story imageJapan is home to an extremely important vessel: it's the ship that lays the trans-oceanic cables that form the backbone of telecommunication, that is, the Internet. Satellites play an increasingly important role in shipping packets, but the bulk of the connections pass through underwater cables.
The laying process involves checking submarine geography to avoid steep rises and falls, and then calculating tide movements and the trajectory of the falling cables in relation to ship speed, the firm said. Only then are the cables laid and buried by the Subaru, which was built in 2000.

The cables, encased in sheaths of rolled metal, are laid and buried deep - at an average of 1,000-1,500 meters below the sea surface - so as not to interfere with fishing vessels. However, the Subaru can lay cables much deeper at 8,000 meters below the waves.
Speaking of backbones, the Internet's backbone - in the protocol sense of the word - remains unfortunately vulnerable. The issue is the Border Gateway Patrol protocol, at the heart of routers everywhere. And its vulnerabilities are not being tackled with a level of effort commensurate with their importance.
Large routers operated by Internet service providers and major corporations use BGP to figure out how to get data between different places. Each of these major routers turns to others like itself-ones operated by other companies-for the information it needs to most efficiently dispatch data to its destination. Companies operating the routers manually choose which other routers theirs will trust.

Unfortunately, BGP doesn't have security mechanisms built in that allow routers to verify the information they are receiving or the identity of the routers providing it. Very bad things can happen when routers spread incorrect information about how to route data, intentionally or otherwise.

That problem has been known for decades. It was the basis of the hacking group L0pht's 1998 claim before Congress that they could take down the Internet in 30 minutes. But incidents that have illuminated BGP's flaws have prodded some security companies to take it more seriously.
Read more about it at Technology Review, who is reporting on one of the important presentations revealed at the 2015 Blackhat Conference discussed here on |. earlier this month.

Amazon ends flash adverts due to vulnerabilities, blocking

in internet on (#JGA8)
Adobe's Flash has earned a reputation for insecurity through a litany of vulnerabilities through the years since its inception in the late 1990s. But it hasn't made many friends among users, either, who are increasingly either turned off by bandwidth-sucking video advertisements, or are nervous that running Flash adverts leaves your machine open to all sorts of vulnerabilities. is now coming around to that point of view as well. Since so many users either block or are fearful of flash adverts, the marketing juggernaut has decided to henceforth refuse to use them. Amazon is only one of many Internet sites, but it's a high profile one, and their refusal of Flash adverts may finally tip the market in a direction it should've headed long ago. Could this be the end of Adobe Flash?

FCC voting on rules for abandonment of copper phone landlines

in internet on (#J38J)
On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission is expected to require that phone companies warn residential customers three months before they abandon a landline/copper network. The rules would prohibit companies from retiring a copper network through neglect. Phone and cable companies would also have to warn customers with newer technologies that the phone will go out with the power, so people can get replacement alarms and backup batteries if necessary.

Many people already scoff at the idea of a landline. About 45 percent of U.S. households just use cellphones. But outside of cities, cell service can be poor. Even among households with wired phone service, about half of them have already ditched copper-based landlines for an Internet-based phone service. Estimates say that about 80 million people as well as several million small businesses still rely on traditional copper-based phone service, but the march away from copper appears inevitable.

But a home phone that relies on the Internet will go out when the power does. With copper networks, the phone line delivers its own power source and will continue to work. In addition, many home burglar alarms and medical alert systems require the copper network, so people need time to get replacements. The agency would also require that phone and cable companies sell customers backup batteries with eight hours of power. After three years, batteries would have to last 24 hours.

This coincides with the $10.54 billion sale of all of Verizon's landline (copper & FIOS) service areas in California, Florida and Texas, to Frontier Communications. The deal which will affect millions of customers, is expected to be completed in 2016. The cash being used to fund investments in Verizon's far more profitable wireless/cellular services business.

Godaddy shuts down Ukrainian NGO domain at Russia's request

in internet on (#E7SH)
story imageA Ukrainian nonprofit organization, started in 2012 as a watchdog for human rights and democratic development in Ukraine, had its website temporarily taken offline by a subsidiary of the U.S.-based registrar company at the behest of the Russian government.

The Maidan Monitoring Information Center announced today that one of its domain been blocked indefinitely by Wild West Domains, LLC, the GoDaddy subsidiary, following a formal request by Roskomnadzor, Russia's telecom regulator and censor. "They refuse to reply to our requests," says Nataliya Zubar, board chair. However, following numerous requests by The Daily Beast to GoDaddy for comment, the URL appears to have been reactivated.

"We registered it with a U.S.-based registrar as an alias because we were afraid of censorship attempts from Ukrainian authorities at the time. The threat of censorship in Ukraine has dissipated after the political breakthrough of March 2014, but now, ironically, we are being censored by a U.S.-based company."

Privacy focused search engine DuckDuckGo surpasses 10 million daily queries

in internet on (#DJBY)
DuckDuckGo announced they hit a milestone, surpassing the 10 million daily query mark on June 22, 2015. DuckDuckGo saw 10,218,617 queries on June 22nd alone. The company gives credit to that surge in users based on them being a privacy focused search engine. Gabriel Weinberg wrote, "we're proud to be helping so many people take back their privacy." DuckDuckGo has grown 600% since Edward Snowden's NSA surveillance news broke two years ago. And yet only a few percent of people have even heard of DuckDuckGo and other private alternatives.

Founded in 2008 by Gabriel Weinberg, DuckDuckGo is based in Paoli, Pennsylvania rather than Silicon Valley. The site, which does not track user data, now handles some 3bn searches a year - although that is only about the same volume that Google processes in 24 hours. Since last year, it has been a built-in search option in both Safari and Firefox. The site also promises to provide the information users want with fewer clicks through features such as instant answers, themes and !bangs. DuckDuckGo hopes these other features will help it continue to build on the audience gained from people looking for more private ways to search the web following the Snowden revelations.

FCC votes to subsidize broadband for the poor

in internet on (#DBVA)
The Federal Communications Commission approved a proposal to explore including broadband as part of a decades-old program that subsidizes phone service for low-income consumers. The plan would expand the government's Lifeline program - created 30 years ago to help financially struggling Americans access basic telecommunication services - to include broadband Internet access. The commission must now figure out the specifics of incorporating broadband into Lifeline, after which another vote will be held. As expected, Republicans opposed extending the phone subsidy, arguing that the program has been subjected to fraud and abuse.

Established in 1985, the Lifeline program offers low-income users a $9.25 monthly subsidy for basic telephone services. It was updated in 2008 to include wireless phones, and now Wheeler wants to reboot it again to "make sure it is still performing the critical function for which it was formed." His proposal would give eligible consumers the option to apply the subsidy to broadband Internet access.

The Case for VP9

in internet on (#B1A9)
HEVC (H.265) might be getting more attention, but Google's VP9 appears to match H.265 in quality and might play a bigger role in the transition from Flash to HTML5. VP9 is an open and royalty free video coding format being developed by Google to succeed H.264 and be competitive with HEVC, as part of its WebM project. HEVC has already made inroads into commercial hardware and software, following on the heels of the already widespread MPEG-4/AVC rollout. Intel, NVIDIA, ARM, Broadcom, LG, Philips, Samsung, and Realtek are among the many hardware vendors that have agreed to incorporate VP9 codec support. While VP9 may play only a minor role in broadcast markets, mobile, or OTT (although a handful of LG & Samsung 4K TVs already support it), it may never-the-less be an essential component for reaching the traditional desktop/notebook market.

VP9 delivers similar quality to H.264 at 50-60% of the data rate, and ultimately it may be the only UHD codec that plays on Firefox and Opera. Today, Firefox, Opera, and Chrome-which together comprise about 60% of browser share-all play VP9, while no browsers play HEVC. Adobe has not announced support for HEVC decode in Flash Player, and it's very unlikely that Firefox, with 17% of overall browser market share, will ever license HEVC. YouTube currently offers several resolutions of VP9 video, with Opus audio in the WebM file format, with adaptive bit-rate streaming, including 720p and 1080p, and will be using VP9 for 4K resolution content. Given that it's now pretty much the default on system configurations that support it, Google says YouTube users watched 25 billion hours of VP9 video in the last year.

June Will Be 1 Second Longer

in internet on (#9XMS)
story imageIt's a dreaded day for many Internet companies: On June 30, an extra second will be added to the clock, creating the potential to wreak havoc on computer systems not equipped to handle the change. The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems (IERS) announced an extra second will be added at the end of June to account for a discrepancy between Earth's rotation and the atomic clock. The extra second will be added as the clock strikes midnight universal time, meaning the extra second will come for people in the United States at 8 p.m. EDT. There have been 25 instances since 1972 of an extra second being added.

It's possible that programs not equipped to handle the extra second could have an issue. When the last leap second was added on June 30, 2012, it caused issues with a number of websites, including LinkedIn and Yelp. Mozilla, Reddit and Foursquare all experienced system crashes. Qantas was hard hit, too, with a failure of its check-in system creating flight delays across the network.

UK porn industry proposes alternative ID checks

Anonymous Coward
in internet on (#9V9D)
Britons may soon face identity checks to access adult material on the internet, according to discussions between Whitehall and the private sector. "Nobody in the UK wants a centralised identity database," so a new scheme proposed by the pornography industry would see adult sites verifying visitors' identity through banks, credit reference agencies or even the NHS. It comes ahead of an expected new law demanding age checks for online pornography and threatening a block on any sites which don't comply. It is a key Conservative pledge and has widespread support. But critics say the plans are a privacy nightmare, and warn they will require Chinese-style "draconian" levels of internet censorship.

Britain's pornography industry has a lot to gain from the government's plans, critics point out. Tough regulation and stiff competition from abroad have taken their toll on the industry. If overseas sites were blocked it would be boom time for homegrown pornographers. But foreign web companies are beginning to pay attention, too. "Quite how these foreign websites are going to be brought to task, and how quickly they are going to bring it in, I don't know."