Too much information: links for week ending 5 August 2011

Operation Shady RAT: five-year hack attack hit 14 countries
Ars Technica reports on a five-year campaign, revealed this week by researchers at McAfee, to hack computer systems used by organisations across 14 countries, including the governments of the US, Canada and South Korea, as well as the UN, the International Olympic Committee, and 12 US defence contractors: “For all the press that Anonymous and LulzSec have received, McAfee warns that these long-term, targeted attacks are a far more serious threat both to corporations and governments”.
Report | Research

Pakistan banning encryption?
The International Herald Tribune reports on a new legal provision in Pakistan intended to address state surveillance that appears to lay the groundwork for a total ban on encrypted internet traffic.

UK: ISP ordered to block copyright-infringing website using system set up to block child sex abuse imagery
The UK High Court has ruled that UK internet service provider (ISP) BT must use Cleanfeed – a system originally set up to prevent access to child sex abuse images – to deny its subscribers access to a copyright-infringing website called Newzbin. The judgement has serious implications for fundamental laws that govern the internet, as this post for LINX outlines.

US: Federal Appeals Court partially overturns gene patent ruling
A United States federal appeals court has partially overturned a ruling made earlier this year that genes cannot be patented. In this report for the Atlantic, Andrew Cohen examines the nuanced legal opinions, the conflict between the various judges, and the possible future of gene patenting in the United States.

DDoS attacks lead to mass exodus from LiveJournal in Russia
Global Voices reports how Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attacks against the LiveJournal platform in Russia, thought to be aimed at the blog of anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny, have led other LiveJournal users to move to alternative platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

Google and Microsoft launch free science metrics tools
Nature News reports on two new initiatives – Google Scholar Citations and the expanding toolset around Microsoft’s Academic Search – that offer free ways to track and visualise academic citation data: “the systems could be attractive for scientists and institutions that are unable — or unwilling — to pay for existing metrics platforms, such as Thomson Reuters’ Web of Knowledge and Elsevier’s Scopus database.”

German politicians use Norwegian tragedy to demand return of discredited surveillance scheme
Hans Peter-Uhl, a domestic policy spokesperson for Germany’s conservative Christian Democrats, has used the mass shooting and bombing in Norway and the more than 70 deaths which resulted as a platform to call for the reinstatement of data retention laws declared unconstitutional by the German Constitutional Court last year.

Google “effectively excommunicates” Copiepress from the web
In what is described in this report as a “tit-for-tat move”, Google has removed all search results relating to French- and German-language newspapers represented by the umbrella organisation Copiepress, against whom it recently lost a lawsuit for copyright infringement. The case had been focussed solely on results returned by the Google News service.

Uzbekistan switches off mobile internet to stop cheating in exams
The Australian Herald Sun reports that five national mobile operators in Uzbekistan shut down mobile internet and SMS services for the duration of nationwide university entrance exams “in an apparent bid to prevent cheating”.

Researchers expose cunning online tracking service that can’t be dodged
Wired reports on a newly-identified online behavioural tracking service exposed by researchers at UC Berkley that they say uses “practically every known method to circumvent user attempts to protect their privacy”.

Audio special: Patents against prosperity
NPR’s Planet Money podcast examines how the patent system, when it comes to software and the internet, is doing the opposite of what it was intended to do, and reports on a growing arms race between tech giants to amass “defensive” patents to deflect malicious lawsuits from shell companies established purely to exploit the system. The Economist summarise the report, labelling one company specialising in the licensing of defensive patents, Nathan Myhrvold’s Intellectual Ventures, “our age’s authentic villainous robber baron”. Forbes profile Myhrvold and his company.
Planet Money podcast | Economist report | Forbes profile

A Vision of post-clicktivist activism
This strongly-worded piece by Adbusters senior editor Micah White calls out the Silicon Valley clicktivist “colonizers” of digital activism, berating their “budgets bloated by philanthropic grants… ‘asks’ watered down… emails written like bus stop marketing… uninspiring, mundane and frankly counter-revolutionary political agendas”.

Internet is easy prey for governments
Douglas Rushkoff underlines the precarity of activists using the internet as a communications medium: “Old media, such as terrestrial radio and television, were as distributed as the thousands of stations and antennae from which broadcast signals emanated, but all internet traffic must pass through government and corporate-owned choke points”.

The future of budget monitoring
David Sasaki surveys different budget monitoring projects across the globe, and makes the case for new “civic hacking” organisations that focus on open data and data visualisation to work in concert with established budget monitoring NGOs.

Report: Online security in the Middle East and North Africa
The Berkman Center for Internet and Society publish the results of a survey carried out in May 2011 of 98 bloggers in the MENA region, which asked them questions about the risks they thought they faced online and the strategies they employed to mitigate those risks.

Book review: How Google dominates us
“The Information” author James Gleick reviews four new books on Google for the New York Review of Books.

Interview: Wikimedian in Residence on Open Science Daniel Mietchen
The Signpost, the in-house newspaper for Wikipedians, interviews Daniel Mietchen about his new position as Wikipedian-in-Residence on Open Science. The position is being supported by a grant from the OSF Information Program, with the Open Knowledge Foundation acting as institutional host.

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