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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

Russian hackers used bitcoin to fund election interference, so prepare for FUD

The indictment filed today against 12 Russian officials accused of, among other things, hacking the DNC and undermining Hillary Clinton’s campaign also notes that the alleged hackers paid for their nefarious deeds with bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. This unsavory application of one of tech’s current darlings will almost certainly be wielded against it by opportunists of all stripes.

It is perhaps the most popular and realistic argument against cryptocurrency that it enables anonymous transactions globally and at scale, no exception made for Russian intelligence or ISIS. So the news that a prominent and controversial technology was used to fund state-sponsored cyber attacks will not be passed over by its critics.

You can expect bluster on cable news and some sharp words from lawmakers, who will also probably issue some kind of public denouncement of cryptocurrencies and call for more stringent regulation. It’s only natural: their constituencies will hear that Russians are using bitcoin to hack the election systems and take it at face value. They have to say something.

But this knee-jerk criticism is misguided and hypocritical for several reasons.

First is that it’s not as anonymous and mysterious as critics make out. The details in the indictment actually provide an interesting example (far from the first) of the limits of cryptocurrency’s ability to obscure its users’ activities.

The painstaking research of the Special Investigator’s team revealed the approximate amounts and methods involved, and although there is a veneer of anonymity in that addresses are not inherently tied to identities, it is far from impossible to establish ownership. Not that they didn’t try, as the indictment shows:

The Defendants conspired to launder the equivalent of more than $95,000 through a web of transactions structured to capitalize on the perceived anonymity of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.

They also enlisted the assistance of one or more third-party exchangers who facilitated layers transactions through digital currency exchange platforms providing heightened anonymity.

But the process of laundering, after all, becomes rather difficult when there is an immutable, peer-maintained record of every penny being pushed around. Small slip-ups in the team’s operational security allowed investigators to tie, for example, an email address used to access a given bitcoin wallet with the one used to pay for a VPN.

[U]sing funds in a bitcoin address, the Conspirators purchased a VPN account, which they later used to log into the @Guccifer_2 Twitter account. The remaining funds from that bitcoin address were then used […] to lease a Malaysian server that hosted the dcleaks.com website.

It’s likely that the very same distributed ledger technology that allows for anonymous international payments in the first place also creates an invaluable investigative tool for those savvy enough to take advantage of it. So although bitcoin has its shady side, it’s far from perfect secrecy, especially when exposed to the privileges of a federal investigative team.

The second reason the criticism will be hollow is that it doesn’t provide much in the way of new capabilities for those who wish to keep their activities online secret.

There are established methods used by nation-states and garden-variety hackers and criminals alike that minimize or eliminate the possibility of tracking. Money laundering is performed at huge volumes worldwide and there are shady banks, loopholes, and puppet organizations peppered across the globe.

Cryptocurrencies are convenient for paying for things online because there are a number of vendors (dwindling, but they exist) that accept it straight, or if one is not available it is reasonably liquid and can be shifted easily. I feel sure that our own intelligence services are making good use of it.

On that note is the third reason this FUD will be risible: if we are going to address the problem of dark money influencing politics, using bitcoin for hacking activities doesn’t even amount to a rounding error and it is cynical prestidigitation that makes it appear more than such.

I won’t belabor the point, because it is surely topmost in many an American’s mind that cash funneled through Super PACs and offshore accounts, backroom deals and stock trades, favors for lobbyists and corporate “donators,” and twenty other forms of pay-for-play in Washington are more of a clear and present danger than a handful of Russian operatives ineffectually obscuring peanuts payments for hosting fees and bribes.

Perhaps the administration would prefer scripture: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”

If anything these indictments are evidence only that cryptocurrency is here to stay, usable by you, or me, or an rival nation-state, or our own — just like any other financial instrument.


Source: TechCrunch

Dell G3 Gaming Laptop review

Compromise and budget gaming laptops go hand-in-hand, but with the G3, Dell has figured out how to balance what gamers want with what they can live without.

The post Dell G3 Gaming Laptop review appeared first on Digital Trends.


Source: Digital trends

YouTube TV subscribers get a free week after World Cup meltdown

When one of the main selling points for your service is the ability to stream live sports, the last thing you want is a full-on service meltdown during a huge game.

Alas, that’s exactly what happened on Wednesday to YouTube TV. Just as the World Cup semi-finals game between Croatia and England started heating up, <a href=”http://the service went dark.

As something of a mea culpa, YouTube has sent out an email to subscribers promising a free week of YouTube TV service. With most users paying ~$40 a month for the service, that works out to about $10 off their next bill. Curiously, user reports suggest the refund is going out to most, if not all, YouTube TV users — not just those who were watching (or, you know, trying to watch) the game in question.

Meanwhile, some users have noted that reaching out directly to customer service lead to them getting a full month for free — so if you’re still feeling a bit burned by the whole thing, that might be something worth pursuing.

If you’re a subscriber but aren’t seeing the notice, check your spam box — some users in this Reddit thread are mentioning finding the notice hiding in there, or tucked away in the “social” tab in Gmail’s split view.


Source: TechCrunch

Instagram's down and everyone's flocked to Twitter – CNET

It’s the place to be to see if it’s just you.
Source: CNET

Robots Can't Hold Stuff Very Well. But You Can Help

A new online sim computes how and where a robot should grip objects like vases and turbine housings. You can even upload designs of your own objects.
Source: Wired

Amazon is selling refurbished Dyson Ball vacuums for $150 today – CNET

Hurry! The deal ends in 12 hours.
Source: CNET

US charges 12 Russian hackers tied to DNC cyberattack – CNET

The indictments are part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Source: CNET

Moment Pro Camera app brings big camera controls to your phone

The company that brought you the best glass for your mobile device now gives you DSLR-like controls with their Pro Camera app. Features include full manual adjustment over ISO, shutter speed, white balance, image format and more.

It should be noted that if you don’t have a shiny new device you won’t be able to use the app to its full potential since some of its key features include 3D touch, dual lens control, RAW image format, 120 and 240 fps, and 4k resolution.

Moment says the app is for “anyone looking for pro, manual controls on their phone.” Being one of TechCrunch’s resident image makers, I figured I should take the app out for a spin and pit it against the stock camera app. I enlisted my photogenic friend, Jackie, to be my muse.

Scrolling through the manual settings was very easy and the UI never felt fumbly. The histogram is nice to have and utilizes that iPhone notch well. The app doesn’t have portrait mode, however, which Jackie and I would have loved because who doesn’t love that buttery (fake) bokeh – amirite? Manipulating the exposure in video mode was equally as easy. The app didn’t have an audio meter or level settings, so folks recording dialog or VO need to plan accordingly. Luckily, our shoot didn’t need it since we were shooting slow-mo.

For a couple extra bucks you can get the same manual controls, audio levels, + RAW with ProCam 5. But if you’re already invested in the Moment Lens ecosystem and primarily shoot photography then the upgrade could be a worthwhile addition.

You can save photos in HEIF, JPG, RAW and TIFF format. For video, you have the option to shoot in 24, 30, 60, 120, and 240 fps in either 720p, 1080p or 4k resolution. Free to try. $2.99 iOS and $1.99 Android to upgrade.


Source: TechCrunch

6 gardening tips you'll wish you'd known all along – CNET

Want a green lawn and a garden full of beautiful plants? Start here.
Source: CNET

Chowly is raising $5.8 million to help restaurants manage on-demand delivery orders

Chowly, a point-of-sale system for restaurants, has raised nearly $4.7 million, according to an SEC filing. The company is targeting a total raise of $5.8 million.

Chowly aims to help restaurants better manage the influx of delivery orders they receive from a variety of services, such as Grubhub, Delivery.com and Chownow.

In May, Square launched a point-of-sale system for restaurants that integrates on-demand delivery platform Caviar. Down the road, Square said it envisions third-party applications from companies like Postmates, UberEats and DoorDash.

Chowly had previously raised just $700,000 from MATH Venture Partners, Domenick Montanile and others. I’ve reached out to Chowly and will update this story if I hear back.


Source: TechCrunch

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