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Julian Assange Faces New Conspiracy Allegations

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Julian Assange Faces New Conspiracy Allegations

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Julian Assange was back in the news this week, but so was a group called Distributed Denial of Secrets that has in many ways taken up the WikiLeaks mantle. Over the last year and a half, DDoSecrets has released troves of sensitive leaked data from anonymous contributors. And this week it published a dump called BlueLeaks269 gigabytes of police files, largely from centralized “fusion centers,” that included law enforcement emails, audio recordings, and memos.

At Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, Apple announced that it will take more aggressive steps in Safari and iOS 14 overall to stop digital ad tracking and protect user privacy. Meanwhile, Google said on Wednesday that after much criticism it will now default to deleting your data, like “Web and App Activity” and location information, after 18 months instead of storing it indefinitely. The default will only show up on new Google accounts, though, or accounts that enable retention for the first time. Most current Google users will still need to manually set 18-month or three-month auto-delete.

This week we looked at a class of attacks that use “side channels” for clever and unexpected hacking. We walked through the process of bringing your old Signal messages with you to a new phone. And just to make you feel a little better about the chaos in your email inbox, we caught up with an engineer who is always drowning in messages meant for other people, thanks to an address he created 16 years ago that turned out to be boobytrapped.

And there’s more. Every Saturday we round up the security and privacy stories that we didnt break or report on in depth but think you should know about. Click on the headlines to read them, and stay safe out there.

The United States Department of Justice announced a superseding indictment against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Wednesday that expands the scope of the existing 18 charges against him. The indictment alleges that Assange and other WikiLeaks members collaborated with hacking collectives like LulzSec and Anonymous on what DoJ calls “computer intrusions to benefit WikiLeaks.” Assange was originally charged by the Justice Department in April 2019 with hacking crimes. Then at the end of May, DoJ unsealed a superseding indictment focused on alleged violations of the Espionage Act, a move that has been viewed as a potential assault on press freedom, whether you think Assange’s work at WikiLeaks was journalism or not.

On Tuesday, senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Tom Cotton (R-AR), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced a bill that would require tech companies to build so-called lawful access tools, or backdoors, into their products to bypass encryption protections on users’ data. The move is the most explicit attack on encryption from Congress in years. “Tech companies increasing reliance on encryption has turned their platforms into a new, lawless playground of criminal activity,” Cotton said in a statement about the proposed legislation. “This bill will ensure law enforcement can access encrypted material with a warrant.” Security researchers have long insisted, though, that there is no technical way to build a backdoor in encryption for law enforcement that won’t fundamentally undermine the protection. It’s possible that the effort is a red herring to make another bill that threatens encryption, the EARN IT Act, seem more palatable by comparison.

In a report on Thursday, researchers from Symantec said that the notorious group Evil Corp has been working to infect companies with ransomware by targeting employees who are working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic. Hackers of all stripes have been taking advantage of pandemic conditions to conduct everything from phishing attacks to unemployment fraud and espionage. But Evil Corp’s activity is notable, because the group was indicted by the Justice Department in December for hacking. The Treasury Department also imposed sanctions on the group and said it has ties to the Russian FSB security agency. The US’s deterrence efforts have not stopped Evil Corp from expanding its activity, though. Research published earlier this week by the firm Fox-IT indicates that the group has been developing new ransomware and refining its attack techniques.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said last Friday that government agencies and companies have been dealing with a months-long barrage of cyberattacks perpetrated by an unnamed nation state actor. Though Morrison did not name a suspect, anonymous officials told the press that the malicious actor is likely China. Researchers also speculated about this possibility based on similar aggressive Chinese espionage and trade secret theft that has plagued countries around the world. Trade negotiations between Australia and China are also currently tense. Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for Chinas Ministry of Foreign Affairs, vehemently denied that China is behind the hacking spree targeting Australia.


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Sanders and Schumer call on McConnell to hold hearings to fight election conspiracy theories – KTVZ

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Sanders and Schumer call on McConnell to hold hearings to fight election conspiracy theories - KTVZ

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Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York are calling on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to create a new bipartisan committee focused on election integrity and schedule hearings to reassure Americans over a process President Donald Trump has repeatedly sought to undermine.

There is growing anxiety among Democrats, and some Republicans, that Trump will not only continue to sow doubt over the legitimacy of the coming election but throw the subsequent count into chaos by declaring victory before all the votes can be tallied, including the millions that will arrive by mail.

In a letter to McConnell, Sanders and Schumer quote back the Kentucky senator’s own words, in which he attested to the reliability of mail-in voting by citing its successes in Oregon, Washington and Colorado, which have been using the system for years.

Trump has repeatedly questioned the validity of mail-in voting, promoted conspiracy theories questioning election security, called on supporters to act as unsanctioned “poll watchers,” and suggested that the absence of a clear result by the evening of November 3 would in some way cast doubt on the eventual outcome. Key allies in powerful positions, like Attorney General Bill Barr, have followed suit. Barr has persisted in puffing up a debunked claim that ballots received by mail would somehow strip the sender of their privacy — ignoring well-established safeguards.

By escalating the matter now, Sanders and Schumer are responding to growing concern, in partisan and nonpartisan spaces, that Americans are not adequately prepared for the potential of a longer-than-usual wait for results or Trump’s willingness to short-circuit the democratic process if he smells defeat.

“Democrats and Republicans in Congress must come together to ensure that we have a free and fair election where every vote is cast and counted without intimidation,” Sanders told CNN, “where no one has to put his or her health in danger to cast a ballot, and where we have full confidence in the results.”

The proposed hearings would invite a cross-section of election officials from across the country to testify to the security and reliability of mail-in, early- and in-person voting — subjects on which Sanders and Schumer, again, referenced McConnell’s own words.

“Despite the clear security of our vote-by-mail system, some have continued to undermine it with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud,” they wrote. “As you have correctly said, people ‘can vote early, you can vote on Election Day, or you can drop it in the mail,’ and that voters should ‘not worry about your vote not counting.’”

The minority leader and Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, also want more detailed discussion about the fraught hours, or days, after the polls close and a real-time watch of the election horse race potentially swings from one candidate to another.

“We know a number of states may well be counting ballots for a period of time after Election Day, and that those votes may be determinative in this election,” the senators wrote to McConnell. “To avoid disinformation, conspiracy theories, and suspicion about results, we must understand the likely timeline for this process.”

The letter goes on to reference the recent war games-style preparations conducted by a group called the Transition Integrity Project, a bipartisan gathering of operatives and academics that made headlines when some of the outcomes of their exercises — including “both street-level violence and political impasse” — were reported on in late July.

“A bipartisan group of experts and officials have studied multiple scenarios where the outcome of the election was not immediately known. Some of these scenarios resulted in unrest and even violence,” Sanders and Schumer wrote, suggesting the Senate should elevate similar discussions and familiarize the public with the uncertainties ahead. “We would like to hear from the most knowledgeable people in the country as to how we can do everything possible to make sure that the election and the period afterward is secure and peaceful.”

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HHS official sorry for conspiracy theory video

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HHS official sorry for conspiracy theory video

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HHS supported Caputo, with a statement that called him a critical, integral part of the presidents coronavirus response, leading on public messaging as Americans need public health information to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.

There was no immediate statement from the White House.

Attempts to reach Caputo were unsuccessful.

On Capitol Hill, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., called on Azar to fire Caputo, accusing the spokesman of trying to interfere with CDC reports to the medical and scientific community, as well as the public at large. And Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called on Azar himself to resign, citing interference with the CDC as one example of what he termed the administration’s failures.

Officials at CDC have privately complained of recent efforts by political appointees at main HHS to try to edit or press for changes in the agency’s weekly MMWR publications, a go-to resource for public health professionals.

MMWR articles are technical, but they reveal telling details. One published earlier this year noted that while Trump’s travel restrictions dramatically reduced travel from China in February, nothing was being done at that time to restrict travel from Italy and Europe, where the coronavirus was spreading widely and rapidly. Analysis of virus samples from hard-hit New York in March suggested it was introduced there from Europe and other parts of the U.S., the CDC article reported.

Caputo is an unswerving Trump loyalist. His recent book, The Ukraine Hoax, claims the presidents phony impeachment was rooted in a vast conspiracy.

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unwinona:This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS…

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unwinona:This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS...

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My RSS Feedunwinona:

This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS and Polio narrative (among others), only we’re seeing it escalated to weeks and months instead of years or decades.

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