Even as traditional crime — from mortgage originations to healthcare to child exploitation — has migrated online, the range and scope of the FBI’s investigations into cyber-crimes has continued to expand, according to the Bureau’s director, Robert Mueller, III, who testified on May 16 before a Senate subcommittee.
“Computer intrusions and network attacks are the greatest cyber threat to our national security,” he declared. For that reason, the FBI’s cyber division has begun to focus its attention exclusively on computer intrusions, while lesser “cyber-facilitated” crimes — typically crimes perpetrated over the Internet — are being pursued instead by the Bureau’s criminal investigative division.
Mueller testified that his agency has 1,000 specially trained “agents, analysts, and digital forensic examiners” who handle complex undercover operations and examine digital evidence.
The Bureau serves as executive agent for the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force, which consists of representatives from 19 law enforcement and intelligence agencies. “The task force operates through Threat Focus Cells — smaller groups of agents, officers, and analysts focused on particular threats,” Mueller explained.
He cited a handful of FBI success stories in the cyber-crime arena:
- Rove Digital – The FBI took down Rove Digital, a company founded by Estonian and Russian hackers that was committing a “massive Internet fraud scheme.” Seven individuals were indicted in the Southern District of New York, two have been remanded to U.S. custody, and both have pleaded guilty, Mueller reported.
- DDoS malware — The FBI and DHS released since October 2012 almost 168,000 Internet Protocol (IP) addresses that were determined to be infected with DDoS malware.
-Partnerships – The FBI’s cyber division is working increasingly with companies in the private sector to combat cyber threats, the FBI director testified.
Source: Jacob Goodwin
But after coming up with the idea for a system of gears and brackets, it took rather a while to get a US patent. “It wasn’t that difficult in terms of the work [needed to apply],” he says. “I got an attorney to prepare the paperwork and an artist to prepare the drawings to patent office standards. “Then it was a matter of waiting for about two and half years for the first patent, and another two years for the second one.”
While waiting for the first patent, Mr Stadnyk developed and refined his product, which he has called the RoboBracket, turning it into a viable product.
He now employs seven people at MadStad Engineering in Florida, which he launched in 2006, and his US manufactured windshields sell for under $300 (£197). His annual sales total more than $500,000. Mr Stadnyk said that despite the long wait to get the patent, “there was no dispute that this was something new and unique and patentable.” But in March this year the US government changed the rules.
To secure a patent for his next idea (a cosmetic product), Mr Stadnyk won’t have to prove he is the first inventor, he just has to make sure he’s the first inventor to submit the paperwork.
He says that could lead to multiple filings, making it more expensive and difficult for small businesses like his to compete with corporations armed with teams of lawyers.
An illustration from one of Apple’s iPhone patent applications Apple has been involved in a number of patent battles in recent years. Depending on the type of application, securing a single patent can cost between $3,000 and $10,000 in legal fees and a further $2,000 to $5,000 in government processing fees.
“My idea might just be a germ of an idea and not developed. But I file because I’m afraid someone else will file first, [even though] I’ve not had time to experiment to see if it actually works or will sell,” he says. “In the next few months I might find that it’s not going to work the way I want and have to change it. That means I have to file again.”
‘Wait and see’
The first-to-file regulation is part of the America Invents Act, which is aimed at streamlining the patenting process and bringing the US in line with patent laws in other countries.
Elizabeth Dougherty, director of inventor education, outreach and recognition at the US Patent and Trademark Office, acknowledges small business concerns, but says it’s too early to tell whether they’re justified.
“We have to wait and see,” she says. “Some of these procedures are so new and are just being rolled in for the first time; it’s difficult to know what the true case will be.”
She says the act does offer tangible benefits to some small businesses and lone-inventers, in the form of greatly reduced patent application fees. And she says US businesses will find it easier to partner with companies abroad because the patent laws are now more compatible.
The America Invents Act also aims to give businesses better access to the expertise found in many US colleges and universities.
British designer James Dyson British designer James Dyson successfully defended his vacuum’s patents in the early 2000s
Education institutions contain a wealth of research that often goes no further than the classroom. But small businesses are being encouraged to draw on these hubs of knowledge when developing an idea. And many small business themselves are formed as a direct result of student research.
“It’s about making science useful,” says Mark Crowell, executive director of University of Virginia innovation in Charlottesville.
“The old days when one sat in a garage or alone in a lab and had that eureka moment – it happens – but it’s no longer sufficient. You need people who understand markets, patent landscapes and finance and how to make something actually work once you’ve had the idea.”
He says securing intellectual property (IP) ownership has become increasingly challenging because of the volume of open-source knowledge and the huge number of existing patents. Investors often demand patents before they’ll fund further research or development.
“It’s changed the nature of what we do. We discuss IP for new drugs earlier in the day than we did 25 years ago. Before, if we could just get a patent on the initial compound, we felt we were home free. Today we are more sophisticated, and because of the knowledge that’s out there, it takes a lot more.”
A banner being held up by a protester in India Medical patents are often criticized by some groups for preventing cheaper generic drugs
Some 565,000 patent applications were filed in the US last year and the US Patent and Trademark Office is struggling to keep pace with the backlog.
“The sheer volume speaks to the creativity and status of innovation in America,” says Ms Dougherty. “It’s very positive. We haven’t seen a dramatic decline with the change in law or because of the economy.”
But Randolph Smith, owner of Washington-based law firm Smith Patent Office, says 95% of patents will never leave the drawing board. Large companies in particular obtain them as a defensive measure to prevent competitors from developing a similar product.
And he warns that small businesses must stay abreast of patent law changes if they want to stay competitive.
“A recent survey showed that only 9% of small businesses realise we’ve had the biggest change of patent law in the last 50 years,” he says.
But the resistance is already under way.
The glasseslike device, which allows users to access the Internet, take photos and film short snippets, has been pre-emptively banned by a Seattle bar. Large parts of Las Vegas will not welcome wearers. West Virginia legislators tried to make it illegal to use the gadget, known as Google Glass, while driving.
“This is just the beginning,” said Timothy Toohey, a Los Angeles lawyer specializing in privacy issues. “Google Glass is going to cause quite a brawl.”
As personal technology becomes increasingly nimble and invisible, Glass is prompting questions of whether it will distract drivers, upend relationships and strip people of what little privacy they still have in public.
A pair of lens-less frames with a tiny computer attached to the right earpiece, Glass is promoted by Google as “seamless and empowering.” It will have the ability to capture any chance encounter, from a celebrity sighting to a grumpy salesclerk, and broadcast it to millions in seconds.
“We are all now going to be both the paparazzi and the paparazzi’s target,” said Karen L. Stevenson, a lawyer with Buchalter Nemer in Los Angeles.
Google stresses that Glass is a work in progress, with test versions now being released to 2,000 developers. Another 8,000 “explorers,” people handpicked by Google, will soon get a pair.
Among the safeguards to make it less intrusive: you have to speak or touch it to activate it, and you have to look directly at someone to take a photograph or video of them.
“We are thinking very carefully about how we design Glass because new technology always raises new issues,” said Courtney Hohne, a Google spokeswoman.
Developers, however, are already cracking the limits of Glass. One created a small sensation in tech circles last week with a program that eliminated the need for gestures or voice commands. To snap a picture, all the user needs to do is wink.
The 5 Point Cafe, a Seattle dive bar, was apparently the first to explicitly ban Glass. In part it was a publicity stunt — extremely successful, too, as it garnered worldwide attention — but the bar’s owner, Dave Meinert, said there was a serious side. The bar, he said, was “kind of a private place.”
The legislators in West Virginia were not joking at all. The state banned texting while driving last year but hands-free devices are permitted. That left a loophole for Google Glass. The legislation was introduced too late to gain traction before the most recent session ended, but its sponsor says he is likely to try again.
In Las Vegas, a Caesars Entertainment spokesman noted that computers and recording devices were prohibited in casinos. “We will not allow people to wear Glass while gambling or attending our shows,” he said.
Louis Brandeis and Samuel Warren famously noted in 1890 that “numerous mechanical devices threaten to make good the prediction that ‘what is whispered in the closet shall be proclaimed from the house-tops.’ ”
Glass is arriving just as the courts, politicians, privacy advocates, regulators, law enforcement and tech companies are once again arguing over the boundaries of technology in every walk of life.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted last month to require law enforcement to have a warrant to access e-mail, not just a subpoena. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s use of devices that mimic cellphone towers to track down criminals is being challenged in an Arizona case. A California district court recently ruled that private messages on social media were protected without a warrant.
“Google Glass will test the right to privacy versus the First Amendment,” said Bradley Shear, a social media expert at George Washington University.
Google has often been at the forefront of privacy issues. In 2004, it began a free e-mail service, making money by generating ads against the content. Two dozen privacy groups protested. Regulators were urged to investigate whether eavesdropping laws were being violated.
For better or worse, people got used to the idea, and the protests quickly dissipated. Gmail now has over 425 million users. In a more recent episode, the company’s unauthorized data collection during its Street View mapping project prompted government investigations in a dozen countries.
Like many Silicon Valley companies, Google takes the attitude that people should have nothing to hide from intrusive technology.
“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place,” said Eric Schmidt, then Google’s chief executive, in 2009.
Glass is a major step in Google’s efforts to diversify beyond search, and potentially an extremely lucrative move. Piper Jaffray, an analyst firm, estimates that wearable technology and another major initiative, self-driving cars, could ultimately be a $500 billion opportunity for the company. In the shorter term, IHS, a forecasting firm, estimates that shipments of smart glasses, led by Google Glass, could be as high as 6.6 million in three years.
Thad Starner, a pioneer of wearable computing who is a technical adviser to the Glass team, says he thinks concerns about disruption are overblown.
“Asocial people will be able to find a way to do asocial things with this technology, but on average people like to maintain the social contract,” Mr. Starner said. He added that he and colleagues had experimented with Glass-type devices for years, “and I can’t think of a single instance where something bad has happened.”
An incident at a Silicon Valley event shows, however, the way the increasing ease in capturing a moment can lead to problems — even if unintentionally.
Adria Richards, who worked for the Colorado e-mail company SendGrid, was offended by the jokes two men were cracking behind her at the PyCon developers conference. She posted a picture of them on Twitter with the mildly reproving comment, “Not cool.”
One of the men, who has not been identified, was immediately fired by his employer, PlayHaven. “There is another side to this story,” he wrote on a hacking site, saying it was barely one lame sexual joke. “She gave me no warning, she smiled while she snapped the pic and sealed my fate,” he complained.
Critics lashed out at Ms. Richards, using language much more offensive than the two men used. SendGrid was hacked. The company dismissed Ms. Richards, saying there was such an uproar over her conduct, it “put our business in danger.”
“I don’t think anyone who was part of what happened at PyCon that day could possibly have imagined how this issue would have exploded into the public consciousness,” Ms. Richards reflected later. She has not posted on Twitter since.
Twitter has unveiled a new music app which will recommend tracks based on who you follow on the social network. Songs can be played directly in the app via services such as Rdio, Spotify and iTunes.
The software displays songs your friends are currently listening to – as well as suggestions from artists. It follows moves by other social networks such as Facebook to incorporate music recommendations into their services.Last year, Spotify announced its own “follow” system, but the functionality is yet to be rolled out to users on mobile.
Twitter’s app – called #Music – is expected to be made available to download for Apple’s iPhone shortly. No app has been made for users on Google’s Android or the Windows Phone platforms – but there will be a web browser-based version. It will initially be available in the UK and Ireland, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, with more countries being added soon.
The app was likened to a “21st Century mixtape” unveiled on Good Morning America. In a blog post, Twitter’s Stephen Philips explained: “It uses Twitter activity, including tweets and engagement, to detect and surface the most popular tracks and emerging artists. “It also brings artists’ music-related Twitter activity front and centre: go to their profiles to see who they follow and listen to songs by those artists.”He added that half of the social network’s users follow at least one musician.
“This is why artists turn to Twitter first to connect with their fans — and why we wanted to find a way to surface songs people are tweeting about.”Apple tried its own music recommendation engine – but closed it last year Ahead of the app’s release, Twitter gave several musicians early access. They included Moby, who wrote: “It’s a really interesting music resource.”
Many companies have tried to tap into the potential of social recommendation for music.
London-based Last.fm, which was bought in May 2007 by CBS for £140m, analyses what a user listens to and offers suggestions based on the tastes of other Last.fm members who enjoy similar artists. Apple also dipped its toe into the market with Ping – a service built into its iTunes software that promoted music it thought users may like.
At its launch, the late Steve Jobs said: “We think this will be really popular very fast because 160 million people can switch it on today.” Ping was closed in September last year.
Micro-blogging site Twitter is rumoured to be launching a new music service after buying the music discovery site We Are Hunted. We Are Hunted confirmed the deal, adding “there’s no question that Twitter and music go well together” – and said it was shutting down.
The hashtag #music is also featured on the newly-launched music.twitter.com. Reports suggest the new service will offer personalised recommendations on music through its own dedicated app. US celebrity host Ryan Seacrest confirmed the existence of Twitter’s new app on Thursday via a tweet: “playing with @twitter’s new music app (yes it’s real!). there’s a serious dance party happening at idol right now”. The music app could be announced as soon as Friday.
The We Are Hunted acquisition actually happened in 2012, according to reports, suggesting that the music service has long been in the works. In seven years, Twitter has accumulated 200 million users worldwide, who now send an average of 400 million short messages – or tweets – every day. Twitter’s latest move comes as music streaming – where the songs are hosted on servers by companies such as Spotify rather than bought and kept on consumers’ computers – has taken off amid a boom in digital downloading.
The streaming market is now worth £49m to record labels in the UK, the trade body BPI has said. It comes as iPhone-maker Apple is reported to have agreed a deal with the biggest music label Universal to create an internet radio service similar to Pandora using its iTunes platform.