Data privacy agreement deals with cloud concerns

Our weekly roundup of interesting stories online, including new breakthroughs on data privacy, hacking fights with NASA, and how much a cybercriminal really earns.

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Cloud service providers breathed a little more easily this week, after the European Union and United States reached a new Safe Harbour deal. Safe Harbour was an agreement that allowed U.S. service providers to host data about European citizens. The 15-year-old initiative was struck down in October when the European Court of Justice ruled it unconstitutional, following a privacy activist’s lawsuit.

The new deal, called the “EU-US Privacy Shield,” once again lets data flow across the Atlantic. It carries some new provisions, though, including the ability for EU citizens to complain if they feel their data has been misused. It also mandates a national security watchdog to deal with issues of national intelligence.

Nothing is sealed yet, though. The deal was only verbally thrashed out as the negotiation deadline passed. Now it has to be officially approved by the EU’s 28 member states.

NASA’s drone dissent

A fight broke out between NASA and hacking group AnonSec, which claimed to have breached the U.S. space agency’s network. The group said it grabbed control of a Global Hawk drone in a hack that started two years ago and uploaded flight plans that allowed it to manipulate the drone. It also posted 250GB of data to a public mirror.

NASA shot back a denial, claiming that its drone was never compromised, and that it publishes most of its data openly anyway. One report pointed out that some of the data included more than 2,000 personnel contact details only available to NASA employees, and AnonSec’s online account of how it accessed and trawled through the NASA network are highly detailed.

Hackers like AnonSec tend to hack for the lulz, but many cybercriminals do it for the dollars. Many should be mulling a different career, if the latest research is anything to go by. While some cybercriminals may make their fortune, many don’t, according to a new study by the Ponemon Institute. The average earnings for a cybercriminal are about $30,000 per year, according to the report, which says it’s about a quarter of a legitimate security researcher’s salary. In addition, there’s that whole jail-time risk, which legit security researchers don’t typically have to worry about.

Facebook could be draining more than time

Facebook probably sucks up far more of our time than it should on mobile platforms already, because most of us find it hard not to keep checking it. Now, the Guardian suggests that it’s using up far too many other resources too: namely, CPU cycles and battery power.

A Reddit user testing the app on an LG G4 phone found that after uninstalling Facebook and Facebook Messenger, the phone booted 15 per cent faster. Guardian journalists then tested an Android phone’s battery life with and without Facebook’s app, and found a 20 per cent improvement. Facebook said that it’s looking into the issue.

Best of expertIP

When we think of wearable technology, we often think of losing weight with a Fitbit or feeling slightly ridiculous while talking Dick Tracy-style to a smartwatch. Now, according to Christine Wong, Hollywood is expanding the possibilities. This week, she wrote about a new application for wearables: measuring audience reactions to what happens on the big screen.

The Revenant is a grim movie — one moviegoer described it to us as a film that you absolutely have to see once, on the big screen, but won’t ever watch again because it was so stressful. 20th Century Fox quantified that by fitting a test audience with wristbands that measured their heart rates and other biometric data. The studio could measure which scenes caused viewers’ heart rates to quicken. We’ll have to think of a new name for that metric: edge-of-seatability, perhaps?

The article detailed several other ways in which wearable tech is being adapted for entertainment, including gloves that make music and shirts that deliver haptic feedback during sports events. If it makes one thing clear, it’s this: wearable technology is still a nascent industry, with use cases that we’re only just beginning to imagine.

Illustration by Mark Glucki

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