White House declines to support encryption legislation

White House declines to support encryption legislation

The White House is declining to offer public support for draft legislation that would empower judges to require technology companies such as Apple Inc to help law enforcement crack encrypted data, sources familiar with the discussions said.

The decision all but assures that the years-long political impasse over encryption will continue even in the wake of the high-profile effort by the Department of Justice to force Apple to break into an iPhone used by a gunman in last December’s shootings in San Bernardino, California.

President Obama suggested in remarks last month that he had come around to the view that law enforcement agencies needed to have a way to gain access to encrypted information on smartphones.

But the administration remains deeply divided on the issue, the sources said.

The draft legislation from Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein, the Republican chair and top Democrat respectively of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is expected to be introduced as soon as this week.

The bill gives federal judges broad authority to order tech companies to help the government but does not spell out what companies might have to do or the circumstances under which they could be ordered to help, according to sources familiar with the text. It also does not create specific penalties for noncompliance.

Although the White House has reviewed the text and offered feedback, it is expected to provide minimal public input, if any, the sources said.

Its stance is partly a reflection of a political calculus that any encryption bill would be controversial and is unlikely to go far in a gridlocked Congress during an election year, sources said.

A White House spokesman declined to comment on the pending legislation, but referred to White House press secretary Josh Earnest’s statements on encryption legislation. Last month Earnest said the administration is “skeptical” of lawmakers’ ability to resolve the encryption debate given their difficulty in tackling “simple things.”

Tech companies and civil liberties advocates have opposed encryption legislation, arguing that mandating law enforcement access to tech products will undermine security for everyone. Several lawmakers, including U.S. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, a Democrat, have vowed to oppose any attempt to limit encryption protections in U.S. technology products.

Even some intelligence officials worry that enabling law enforcement agencies to override encryption will create more problems than it solves by opening the door to hackers and foreign intelligence services. Some also say it is unnecessary because the government has other means of getting the information it needs.

The Justice Department dropped its legal action against Apple last week, saying it had found a way to hack into the phone.

The White House last year backed away from pursuing legislation that would require U.S. technology firms to provide a “back door” to access encrypted data. The backpedaling resembled a retreat by President Bill Clinton’s administration in the 1990s on efforts to require a special computer chip in phones to give the U.S. government a way to monitor encrypted conversations.

But the desire for encryption legislation among some intelligence and law enforcement officials has never gone away, and it gained new life after the Islamist militant-inspired attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.

Even some intelligence officials worry that enabling law enforcement agencies to override encryption will create more problems than it solves by opening the door to hackers and foreign intelligence services

Obama, speaking at the South by Southwest entertainment festival in Austin, Texas, last month, warned against “fetishizing our phones” and said that doing nothing to address law enforcement’s encryption challenges “can’t be the right answer.”

Obama, however, also cautioned against Congress taking any action that would be “sloppy and rushed.”

Apple and others have called on Congress to help find a solution to the problem of criminals and terrorists using encryption to avoid surveillance. A separate proposal to form a national encryption commission to further study the issue is also not expected to be enacted this year.

Meanwhile, tech companies are stepping up their efforts to implement encryption and other security measures. The Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp announced this week that it had implemented complete encryption of its service – and now cannot get access to customer messages even if was ordered to by a court.

Reddit for Android, iOS is out now

Reddit for Android, iOS is out now

Reddit on Thursday launched native mobile applications for Android and iOS platforms, hereby also replacing Alien Blue, a third-party app that the company acquired in 2014. The popular app for browsing Reddit will no longer be available for download and install for new users. Instead, they can now officially start using the in-house Reddit app that is claimed to be faster, more modern and more usable.

The service was well until now accessible via the mobile web or through the numerous third-party clients that have crept up over time on smartphones/tablets. Reddit sees a considerable user share on mobile. Hence, the mobile app.

Reddit plans to push “new features at a faster pace (to its mobile apps) than what was possible before with the Alien Blue application,” reports Tech Crunch . Moving on, users can also expect updates at least once per month, adds the report.

Key notables of the Reddit app include a card-based view option for content, customisable subreddits, inline images, theme support, among others. There will be some platform specific features as well.

But looks like the app is being rolled out in phases, and isn’t available everywhere.

Saavn jumps into original programming

Saavn jumps into original programming

Saavn on Thursday announced the launch of Saavn original programming which will see the popular music streaming service partner with radio icon Neelesh Misra, podcast network Indus Vox Media, and digital media brand Arré to generate ten new audio shows. This marks Saavn’s jump into the original programming space.

“Two original series by renowned journalist and radio icon Neelesh Misra, will debut on Saavn on May 1. Misra will narrate Qisson Ka Kona, a storytelling program, along with Time Machine (premiering mid-June), a show covering mythology,” the company said in a statement. At the same time, Saavn will collaborate with Arre´ to produce the original true crime series Trial by Error: The Aarushi Files.

Along with these, the company is also going to introduce an Artist-in-Residence program, a creative platform highlighting the best of new musicians and bands. Its first Artist-in-Residence will be popular indie electronic artist Nucleya.

“Today, we are turning Saavn from a music-only product to an entertainment platform – a platform with the best music experience, groundbreaking original programming, and a true home for artists and creators,” Saavn co-founder and CEO Rishi Malhotra said. “While music is at the heart of everything we do, we are building off that success to bring our listeners closer to India’s best talent in storytelling, comedy, documentaries, and sports. Mobile is the new cable box and we’re bringing these channels to life; they’re made in India, for the world to hear,” he added.

Adobe issues emergency update to Flash after ransomware attacks

Adobe issues emergency update to Flash after ransomware attacks

Adobe Systems Inc issued an emergency update on Thursday to its widely used Flash software for Internet browsers after researchers discovered a security flaw that was being exploited to deliver ransomware to Windows PCs.

The software maker urged the more than 1 billion users of Flash on Windows, Mac, Chrome and Linux computers to update the product as quickly as possible after security researchers said the bug was being exploited in “drive-by” attacks that infect computers with ransomware when tainted websites are visited.

Ransomware encrypts data, locking up computers, then demands payments that often range from $200 to $600 to unlock each infected PC.

Japanese security software maker Trend Micro Inc said that it had warned Adobe that it had seen attackers exploiting the flaw to infect computers with a type of ransomware known as ‘Cerber’ as early as March 31.

Cerber “has a ‘voice’ tactic that reads aloud the ransom note to create a sense of urgency and stir users to pay,” Trend Micro said on its blog.

Adobe’s new patch fixes a previously unknown security flaw. Such bugs, known as “zero days,” are highly prized because they are harder to defend against since software makers and security firms have not had time to figure out ways to block them. They are typically used by nation states for espionage and sabotage, not by cyber criminals who tend to use widely known bugs for their attacks.

Use of a “zero day” to distribute ransomware highlights the severity of a growing ransomware epidemic, which has disrupted operations at a wide range of organizations across the United States and Europe, including hospitals, police stations and school districts.

Ransomware schemes have boomed in recent months, with increasingly sophisticated techniques and tools used in such operations.

“The deployment of a zero day highlights potential advancement by cyber criminals,” said Kyrk Storer, a spokesman for FireEye Inc. “We have observed ransomware and crimeware deployed via ‘zero-day’ before; however, it is rare.”

FireEye said that the bug was being leveraged to deliver ransomware in what is known as the Magnitude Exploit Kit. This is an automated tool sold on underground forums that hackers use to infect PCs with viruses through tainted websites.

Exploit kits are used for “drive-by” attacks that automatically seek to attack the computers of people who view an infected website.

Action will be taken against cab services for surge pricing, says Delhi govt

Action will be taken against surge pricing, says Delhi govt

The Delhi government on Thursday said app-based taxi operators will be restrained from levying ‘peak time charges’ when the second round of the odd-even scheme will be in force.

The scheme aims at cutting down on the number of vehicles plying on the city’s roads. Taxis have been exempted under the road-rationing plan and are in demand when it is in force.

“Action will be taken if we receive complaints of app-based taxis charging exorbitant fares when the scheme is in force,” Delhi Transport Minister Gopal Rai warned.

“Commercial vehicles bearing yellow number plates, including CNG-run taxis, three-wheeler and four-wheeler tempos, autos and taxis will be allowed to ply under the scheme,” said a senior government official.

The official said that commercial vehicles of other states running on CNG have also been exempted from the road-rationing experiment.

Are you crazy about posting selfies? You may be narcissist

Are you crazy about posting selfies? You may be narcissist

Are you a self-obsessed person and love to click selfies? Korean researchers have found that narcissist are more likely to show selfie-posting behaviour on social networking sites such as Facebook as well as evince great interest in the feedback they receive.

A narcissistic personality is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others.

“Across all social media technologies, narcissists (as compared to non-narcissists) tend to engage in more self-enhancement strategies in hopes of gaining admiration,” said Brenda K. Wiederhold from Virtual Reality Medical Institute, Brussels, Belgium.

According to researchers, the involvement in comments received to their own selfies and their interest in other people’s selfies did not; however mean that they were more likely to provide feedback.

The authors describe the link between degree of narcissism and self-promotion through selfies published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behaviour, and Social Networking.

Individuals with a higher degree of narcissism have a more favourable attitude towards the act of posting selfies, said Jung-Ah Lee and Yongjun Sung from Korea University found

“However, since narcissism does not completely explain selfie posting, future studies are needed to uncover additional psychological or social factors that influence selfie posting behaviour,” Wiederhold added.

Intel executives depart company as mobile, IoT segments struggle for growth

Intel suffers turnover like any company, but its upper echelons aren’t known for being a revolving door. That’s changed in recent weeks with the (unconfirmed) departure of Aicha Evans, who joined the company in July to head its mobile semiconductor division. Now, longtime veterans Kirk Skaugen and Doug Davis are both leaving as well. Skaugen was a senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s client group, while Davis is a senior VP and general manager of the Internet of Things division. Skaugen is leaving immediately, while Davis has pledged to stay on through the end of 2016.

These departures all occurred just a few months after Intel hired former Qualcomm executive Dr. Venkata “Murthy” Renduchintala, president of the Client and Internet of Things (IoT) Businesses and Systems Architecture Group.


We don’t talk much about Intel’s market position because the company is fundamentally healthy; far moreso than AMD, at any rate. The truth, however, is more nuanced. Intel still dominates the datacenter and conventional client markets, but the company has had very limited success in the mobile and Internet of Things markets.

Intel revenue

In the graph above, CCG stands for client computing, DCG means data centers, IOT is the Internet of Things, and SSG is software and services. Datacenters have been a growth market for Intel, but other areas have underperformed.

Eight years ago, Intel’s problem was simple: It couldn’t build chips that were capable of hitting the necessary TDPs to operate in a smartphone or tablet. Today, that bottleneck is long-since solved; x86 Android tablets are indistinguishable from their ARM-based counterparts at the same price points. The larger issue, according to sources we’ve spoken to, is that Intel hasn’t found a cost structure that simultaneously supports its margins and delivers performance-equivalent silicon to compete against ARM.

Intel’s traditional plan has been to subsidize low-end markets with high-end sales of server, workstation, and datacenter processors. This works well in the existing PC market, but the company has had no success in duplicating this model in the tablet world. When Windows 8 launched in 2012, Intel’s stated plan was to capture the high end of the tablet market (think $700 – $900 devices) with Clover Trail, while ARM devices running Windows RT would be pushed to the bottom of the market. This never happened — customers were turned off Windows 8 in general, and Clover Trail simply wasn’t powerful enough to justify its own price point. Over the last few years we’ve seen Intel ship millions of tablets with contra-revenue, launch new partnerships with companies like Rockchip, and iterate on its Atom processors to deliver lower-cost, higher-performing variants. Despite these iterations and improvements, it has yet to take significant share in mobile.

(No one is making significant revenue in the Internet of Things, and there are no killer devices from any company, so we can’t exactly say Intel is doing worse than anyone else.)

Being an IDM is a blessing — and a curse

4-5 years ago, Intel’s status as an Integrated Device Manufacturer (IDM) looked like a huge positive for the company compared to its competitors. An IDM is a company that’s responsible for both the design of the silicon and the foundry that will build the chip itself. Intel’s fabs are famous for their design methodologies and “copy exactly” rule that mandates each and every fab be built to the same specifications and with the same capabilities. If one Intel fab adopts a new manufacturing technique using platform XYZ, that technique and hardware will be adopted by every other Intel foundry tasked with manufacturing the part.


Intel, TSMC, and Samsung feature sizes at 14nm. Intel leads its competitors by multiple metrics, but these metrics haven’t given it the advantage it hoped for.

The advantage to having extremely specific design rules that are tightly coupled to your process technology is that the CPU team can design hardware mapped to the process node’s strengths. The disadvantage is that it makes fabbing for other customers difficult and drives up your own costs.

The problem boils down to this: Intel’s CPUs and manufacturing are tuned to deliverexceptional products that are designed in a particular way. Foundries like TSMC, GlobalFoundries, and Samsung are tuned to deliver high throughput, low costs, and flexible manufacturing platforms that can be adjusted to whatever the customer needs.

Intel is caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, its continued dominance in traditional PC markets has been partly driven by adopting philosophies like copy exactly. This guiding philosophy is also partly responsible for the problem it has today with scaling its products into new markets, and these aren’t situations that hiring or firing executives are going to solve. So far, the company hasn’t demonstrated a coherent strategy for fixing this problems. Its foundry business remains small, its mobile and client businesses are still shrinking, and a handful of partnerships with Chinese OEMs aren’t sufficient reason to overhaul its fabs for mass manufacturing.

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