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Friday, October 4, 2013

New Snowden Leak: NSA Tried to Break Tor

Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian published another leak from Edward Snowden, this one claiming that the NSA has been working to break Tor, the widely-used anonymity network. The documents Snowden leaked to Greenwald reveal that the NSA attempted to reveal the identities of various users of the anonymity network by attacking various vulnerabilities, such as vulnerable versions of the Firefox web browser bundled with the Tor Browser Bundle.

In a presentation called “Tor Stinks”, the agency laments that “We will never be able to de-anonymize all Tor users all the time,” but also states that “With manual analysis we can de-anonymize a very small fraction of Tor users.” While Tor’s core encryption functionality remains uncompromised, the agency has had success attacking browser vulnerabilities that could lead to the loss of individual Tor users’ anonymity.

Security expert Bruce Schneier explained one method in which the NSA compromises Tor users’ anonymity: “The NSA creates ‘fingerprints’ that detect http requests from the Tor network to particular servers. These fingerprints are loaded into NSA database systems like XKeyscore, a bespoke collection and analysis tool which NSA boasts allows its analysts to see ‘almost everything’ a target does on the internet.”

Boehner Urges Obama to Negotiate on Shutdown

John Boehner pleaded with U.S. President Barack Obama to negotiate over House demands to defund the Affordable Care Act in a new budget, saying, “This isn’t some damned game. The American people don’t want their government shut down, and neither do I. All we’re asking for is to sit down and have a discussion, reopen the government and bring fairness to the American people under Obamacare.”

For its part, the White House reiterated that it would not accept any budget that removed funding from the Affordable Care Act, and that it would veto piecemeal funding packages: “Instead of opening up a few government functions, the House of Representatives should reopen all of the government.”

Meanwhile, House Democrats unveiled a plan to discharge a GOP bill that automatically funds the government, relying on a rule that allows a bill to go to the floor [with the help of 20 moderate Republicans]. Nancy Pelosi said that the plan was “an attempt for us in a bipartisan way to open up government.”

Healthcare.gov Faces Technical Issues

As Americans tried to sign up for health care coverage Tuesday, the first day the Affordable Care Act’s online marketplaces were open to the public, HealthCare.gov, the most popular of these exchanges, suffered gross technical problems. On Tuesday, visitors were met with messages to try again later. As recently as Thursday, visitors were still having problems signing up for insurance through the exchanges, although the administration officials said that the government is “adding capacity every hour.”

In response to these issues, Obama defended the marketplaces, saying, “A couple of weeks ago, Apple rolled out a new mobile operating system, and within days, they found a glitch, so they fixed it. I don’t remember anybody suggesting Apple should stop selling iPhones or iPads or threatening to shut down the company if they didn’t.”

Tesla Model S Catches on Fire; CEO Defends Company

As depicted in a viral video, a Tesla Model S caught on fire on a highway near Seattle, causing Tesla stock to lose more than 10% of its value out of fear that the lithium ion batteries in electronic cars like the Tesla Model S are not safe.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, however, went into more detail about the incident and the events that led up to the fire, shedding light on the circumstances. In the blog post, Musk explains that the car struck a large metal object that fell off a semi-trailer, causing a lever action that impaled the car with a massive amount of force. The car’s system then warned the owner to bring the car to a stop and exit the vehicle.

Musk added, “Had a conventional gasoline car encountered the same object on the highway, the result could have been far worse. A typical gasoline car only has a thin metal sheet protecting the underbody, leaving it vulnerable to destruction of the fuel supply lines or fuel tank, which causes a pool of gasoline to form and often burn the entire car to the ground.”

As Tropical Storm Approaches Louisiana, Evacuations Urged

The Mayor of Grand Isle, a town off the coast of New Orleans, called for voluntary evacuations as Tropical Storm Karen moved through the Gulf of Mexico in the direction of the town. While the evacuations are not mandatory, he urged caution and prudence in the face of the upcoming storm.

Meanwhile, tropical storm watches are in place for metropolitan New Orleans and the neighboring region. Experts say that storm surges could cause water heights to reach three to five feet in some areas.

Weekend Read: On the Origins of the iPhone

Fred Vogelstein of The New York Times gives an in-depth look into the making of the iPhone, “And Then Steve Said, ‘Let There Be an iPhone’”

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