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May 16, 2017

Matt Cagle is a Policy Attorney for Technology and Civil Liberties at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Matt attended law school at Stanford and has a BA in Latin American Studies and Political Science from the University of Arizona. Before joining the ACLU as a Policy Attorney, Matt worked as an associate with BlurryEdge Strategies, a San Francisco-based law practice advising startups on privacy issues.

In this episode, we discussed:

  • how the police use social media to track American citizens. 


ACLU of Northern California

The Philipp K. Dick Collection by Phillip K. Dick



A massive hack infected hundreds of thousands Microsoft Windows-based computers, disabling several large hospitals in the UK, requiring them to turn away some patients, as well as Fedex, Telefonica, and several other institutions. The ransomware, which is a program called "WannaCry", encrypts files so users can't access them and then demands payment, in the form of the digital currency known as Bitcoin, from victims to decrypt their files. WannaCry spread around the world beginning on Friday, although it did so to a lesser degree in other countries than it was felt in the UK. An engineer that goes by the screen name "Malware Tech" found a kill switch in the ransomware. The ransomware relies on infected computers not being able to access a particular domain name. Since the domain name wasn't registered, no computers could access it. Therefore Malware simply registered the domain, stopping it from spreading to additional computers.

The U.S. was barely affected by the cyberattack, but researchers are on the lookout for copycats. Microsoft issued a statement saying the cyberattack should be a wake up call for governments as the hack was executed using stolen government data. U.S. Cyber Command head Admiral Mike Rodgers told the Senate Armed Services Committee just last Tuesday that Congress needed to provide clearer guidance as to how his agency should fight cyberattacks. Rogers also told the Senate panel that his agency witnessed Russian intrusions into French systems in the midst of the French election last week.  On Thursday, President Trump had signed an executive order authorizing a sweeping review of all federal agencies to identify the holes that hackers have been exploiting. The ransomware hack happened on Friday.  

The Hill reports the ransomware attack has made the perpetrators over $57,000 worth of bitcoins thus far.

A federal judge on Monday of this week ordered Uber to turn over some 14,000 documents to Waymo--the self-driving company owned by Google--which Waymo says were stolen by a former Google engineer by the name of Anthony Levandowski. The Waymo lawsuit alleges that Levandowski left Google to start a self-driving truck company called Otto, taking the documents with him. Then Uber subsequently acquired Otto, taking the documents with it.  Waymo also announced a new collaboration with Lyft on Monday of this week. Ali Breland has the story in The Hill.

Finally, A number of policymakers are concerned about the ways in which Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) might begin to surveil immigrants or develop a database to track immigrants for deportation. But in an exclusive report for NPR, George Joseph outlined specific ways in which ICE is already using databases maintained by local law enforcement to accomplish the same ends

Remember last week's John Oliver bit criticizing FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's plan to scale back the net neutrality rules? The one where Oliver urged viewers to go to a site the show created called, which redirected to the FCC's comments section, and then the comments section crashed? Well the incident left FCC Chairman Pai scrambling to contain his agency's embarrassment, and there was some confusion as to whether the site crashed because of the influx of comments provoked by the show, or by some kind of contemporaneous hack designed to prevent comments from being submitted. Well, the FCC maintains that it was indeed a hack and that the crash wasn't caused by John Oliver's segment. Democrats are saying, "yeah right"-- Senators Ron Wyden and Brian Schatz wrote Chairman Pai saying cyberattacks are a very serious matter and urging the agency to turn over any evidence of a cyberattack happening a few minutes after Oliver's segment. No word yet. But Oliver again this past Sunday rallied his viewers to submit comments.  Harper Neidig has more in The Hill.