Today in Tech News Digest, exploiting the Internet, retaining Windows XP, Googling government waste, Glassing San Francisco, Real-time Twitter, trending subreddits, and an iPad concept circa 2004.
The NSA Can Exploit Internet Flaws
The NSA saying they had no knowledge of Heartbleed is like a kid with chocolate smeared all over his face saying he hasn’t heard of cookies.
— Jacqui Cheng (@ejacqui) April 11, 2014
The NSA is retaining the right to exploit flaws in Internet security without passing on details of them to the general public. This is the takeaway from an examination of the rules governing NSA behavior under President Obama.
This all began with the Heartbleed vulnerability recently discovered in OpenSSL. Bloomberg claims the NSA has known about the flaw for “at least two years” and “regularly used it to gather critical intelligence.” Unfortunately, the only sourcing was “two people familiar with the matter.”
The NSA vehemently denies the accusation, though The Guardian has since seen fit to remind us all that regardless of when the NSA learned about Heartbleed, the agency can still use it to unlock previously encrypted data it may have stored.
The upshot of all this is that, according to The New York Times, Obama decided in January that most major flaws in Internet security should be shared, rather than exploited, by the NSA.
However, a broad loophole which bypasses this rule when “a clear national security or law enforcement need” arises means that if something similar to Heartbleed was discovered in the future, the NSA wouldn’t necessarily share it with the rest of us. Which is rather disheartening to hear.
Those of you concerned about Heartbleed should read our guide detailing what you can do to stay safe in spite of the Internet effectively being broken, albeit temporarily.
The IRS Is Still Using Windows XP
As everyone and their grandparents know by now, Microsoft ended support for Windows XP on April 8. Unfortunately, in addition to the millions of ordinary people deciding to carry on using it, some rather important government departments are persevering.
Those still using XP include the IRS (Internal Revenue Service), which collects taxes in the United States. Despite knowing about the deadline since 2008, the IRS has only managed to upgrade 47 percent of its computers to Windows 7, with the other 53 percent stuck using XP.
Not to worry, as the IRS is paying Microsoft for ‘Custom Support’, which sees Redmond patching critical vulnerabilities beyond the end of official support. Computerworld suggests this will cost the IRS around $11.6 million for one year. Isn’t it nice to see your tax dollars being put to such good use?
Let Me Google That For You, Senator
— RYOT NEWS (@RYOTnews) April 12, 2014
Perhaps proving that not all politicians are humorless automatons, U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) is sponsoring “a bill to eliminate an outdated agency that has lost more than $1 million trying to sell government reports that are available for free online.” The name of the bill? The ‘Let Me Google That For You‘ act.
The bill argues that the National Technology Information Service (NTIS) charges huge amounts of money for government reports, most of which are available for free online. So why not stop frittering money away when anyone can just use Google instead? It’s a fair point.
San Francisco Hates Google Glass Explorers
If you ever visit San Francisco then you may want to remove your Google Glass specs before doing so. This is the lesson learned from the experience of Kyle Russell, a Business Insider employee who had his Google Glass ripped off his face and destroyed.
This is the latest example of the ordinary residents of San Francisco fighting back against what they consider the gentrification of the area by Silicon Valley companies. Russell is understanding over the motivation behind the attack, but that doesn’t make the incident any more palatable.
Twitter Introduces Real-Time Notifications
Wait, is this Twitter or Facebook? Getting harder and harder to tell them apart. http://t.co/KkayU5NfTw
— Fast Company (@FastCompany) April 11, 2014
Twitter has introduced real-time notifications to its Web interface. Once the update has hit your account, you will receive notifications every time someone replies, favorites or retweets one of your tweets, and when you add a new follower or receive a direct message. The change is designed to improve engagement levels.
Reddit Promoting Trending Subreddits
Reddit has added an ever-changing roster of trending subreddits to its homepage. This small update could have a profound impact on the smaller communities that exist on Reddit, which could find themselves experiencing a sudden influx of new users and comments. Sensibly, only Safe For Work communities are eligible to be featured.
How The iPad Could Have Looked
And finally, Apple released the iPad in 2010, but there was speculation over such a product for years before that. So much so that in 2004 someone posted the iPad concept you can see above to the MacRumors forum. The name is about the only thing accurately predicted, but it’s still a fascinating look at how quickly technology evolves.
Tech News Digest… Breaking News Into Bite-Sized Chunks.
Image Credit: FutUndBeidl via Flickr