Author: Taylor Hatmaker

Russia targeted election systems in 21 states, successfully hacking some

TECHCRUNCH On Friday, the Department of Homeland Security notified nearly half of the U.S. states that their election systems were targeted by Russia-affiliated hackers in an attempt to influence the 2016 election. In most of the states targeted, the hackers were engaged in preliminary activities like scanning. In other states hackers attempted to infiltrate systems and failed, but in a small selection of states, with only Illinois confirmed so far, the election systems were compromised successfully. According to Homeland Security, none of these attempts were aimed at the systems that actually tabulate the votes themselves. At least 21 states...

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Peter Thiel is being considered to chair Trump’s intelligence advisory board

TECHCRUNCH In a fairly epic new Vanity Fair profile, the magazine reports that Peter Thiel is the frontrunner to become the chair of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board (PIAB), a meta intelligence entity that functions independently from the nation’s spy agencies. The makeup of the board has varied over the years; while some presidents stock it with intelligence experts from the private sector, others reward political allies as they might in other appointee positions. Vanity Fair reports that while it sounded like Thiel’s potential role was off the table in August, now the PayPal co-founder is again in talks to take...

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Senate Intelligence Committee wants Facebook to appear in a public Russia hearing

TECHCRUNCH According to its chairman, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence intends to call Facebook to a public hearing on Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. North Carolina Senator Richard Burr made remarks to reporters on Tuesday confirming the committee’s interest in speaking with Facebook, the Hill reports. “We’re in agreement on a Facebook public hearing,” Burr said. “It’s just a question of when and potentially the scope.” Facebook has also reportedly cooperated with Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia and the Trump administration, handing over detailed information on political ads that were bought on its...

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Saudi Arabia opens itself to Skype, WhatsApp and other internet calling services

TECHCRUNCH Lifting a longtime ban, Saudi Arabia will open up the country to online calling services. Apps like Skype and WhatsApp will become functional in the country on Wednesday at midnight local time. The announcement came from the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC), Saudi Arabia’s telecommunications regulatory authority. In a news release, the CITC explained its decision to reverse the internet and VoIP calling ban, which it implemented in 2013: “The Spokesman for the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC), Mr. Adel Abu Hameed, today announced the lifting of the ban on all applications that provide voice and video...

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Poshtel launches an international network of luxe pop-up shipping container suites

TECHCRUNCH Launching on the Disrupt 2017 Startup Battlefield stage, the Danish startup Poshtel is really, really into shipping containers. And with good reason. The modular, industrial train car-esque structures are a versatile idea for the near future of housing, from providing permanent homes for the houseless to giving backpackers on a budget somewhere to crash for a night. While Poshtel sounds interested in both ends of that spectrum, it intends to start with the latter. The company will launch as “a chain of designer suites available for rent through Airbnb” but the company characterizes its interests as a “movement”...

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Citizen’s controversial crime tracker expands to SF, picks up $12 million from Sequoia

TECHCRUNCH The app formerly known as Vigilante isn’t going away. Today at TechCrunch Disrupt SF, the crime tracker now known as Citizen announced that its parent company Sp0n has raised a $12 million Series A round led by Sequoia Capital. Paired with the funding news, Citizen, previously exclusive to New York City, will open its crime-conscious geogates to San Francisco. You may have heard of Citizen. The app was removed from the App Store in its former incarnation for “a violation of Apple’s App Store Review Guidelines, with concerns centered around user safety,” according to a Medium post from the company earlier this year. But earlier this month, a company spokesperson told me that “Vigilante was taken out of the App Store for more technical reasons, dealing with geo restrictions and developer technicalities” and that “the above is rumor and inaccurate,” a statement in apparent direct conflict with the company’s own previous account of the event. At the time, concerns that the app encouraged vigilantism, racial profiling and generally unsafe behavior were voiced by our site and many others. Founder Andrew Frame, co-creator of the VoIP startup Ooma (we’re just going to leave this vintage Valleywag link here) views the backlash as a learning opportunity, though what he learned isn’t entirely clear. The app removed its most controversial features and evolved into what is now known as Citizen, relaunching in March of...

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U.S. Senate votes to oust Russian security software vendor Kaspersky from federal use

TECHCRUNCH Following a directive from the Department of Homeland Security last week banning the use of Kaspersky Lab security software in the executive branch, the U.S. Senate has followed suit. On Monday, the Senate passed an amendment against Kaspersky Lab pushed forward by New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen. The amendment was attached to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) following a voice vote adding it to the bill on Thursday. Shaheen, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote an op-ed in The New York Times arguing for Kaspersky’s removal earlier this month. “I’m very pleased that the Senate has acted...

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Coinbase vulnerability is a good reminder that SMS-based 2FA can wreak havoc

TECHCRUNCH Two days ago, a friend who invested in Bitcoin asked me how secure her Coinbase investment was. She had plans to put her coins in cold storage but as a security stopgap was relying on two-factor authentication (2FA) through Coinbase, as many people do. My main question: What kind of two-factor? The problem with 2FA is that often a distinction isn’t made between SMS-based 2FA, which sends a code to the user via text, and 2FA that requires a user to respond to a push verification send to a specific physical device. Security researchers at Positive Technologies have...

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