Russian Hackers Are Using ‘Tainted’ Leaks to Sow Disinformation – ANDY GREENBERG 05.25.17. 11:51 AM

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Over the past year, the Kremlin’s strategy of weaponizing leaks to meddle with democracies around the world has become increasingly clear, first in the US and more recently in France. But a new report by a group of security researchers digs into another layer of those so-called influence operations: how Russian hackers alter documents within those releases of hacked material, planting disinformation alongside legitimate leaks.

A new report from researchers at the Citizen Lab group at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Public Affairs documents a wide-ranging hacking campaign, with ties to known Russian hacker groups. The effort targeted more than 200 individuals, ranging from Russian media to a former Russian prime minister to Russian opposition groups, and assorted government and military personnel from Ukraine to Vietnam. Noteworthy among the leaks: A Russia-focused journalist and author whose emails were not only stolen but altered before their release. Once they appeared on a Russian hactivist site, Russian state media used the disinformation to concoct a CIA conspiracy.

The case could provide the clearest evidence yet that Russian hackers have evolved their tactics from merely releasing embarrassing true information to planting false leaks among those facts. “Russia has a long history of experience with disinformation,” says Ron Deibert, the political science professor who led Citizen Lab’s research into the newly uncovered hacking spree. “This is the first case of which I am aware that compares tainted documents to originals associated with a cyber espionage campaign.”

Go Phish

In his 2003 book Darkness at Dawn, journalist David Satter alleged that Vladimir Putin had arranged for Russian security forces to bomb apartment buildings in Moscow in 1999, in an attempt to incite war with Chechnya. In October of last year, Satter received a phishing email that spoofed a message from Google security requiring him to enter his Gmail account credentials, the same tactic used to breach the inbox of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta last year. Satter, too, fell for the ruse.

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Google and Mark Zuckerberg Back New Way to Measure Criminal Justice |

The U.S. criminal justice system is huge: there are more than 3,000 counties and many more local municipalities, each with their own local law enforcement agencies, courts and prisoners. But despite the federal government’s efforts to collect data on many aspects of modern life, the criminal justice system is an area where that has not happened.

Each agency typically keeps their own records and their data stays local. That means it can be difficult — or often impossible — to answer basic questions such as how many people are shot by police each year, how many people plead guilty or how many people return to prison after being released.

But nonprofit Measures for Justice wants to change that. The group launched a new data portal this week that aims to help people understand what life is like in the nation’s criminal justice system by gathering data from every county across the country.

Source: Google and Mark Zuckerberg Back New Way to Measure Criminal Justice |

Why Bad Online Courses Are Still Taught in Schools – By Zoë Kirsch and Stephen Smiley MAY 25 2017 5:55 AM

Because many of the laws regulating them are toothless—and because of an aggressive political effort to maintain that status quo.

170522_SCHOOLED_Credit-Recovery-PoliticalKellan Jett

This article is part of the Big Shortcut, an eight-part series exploring the exponential rise in online learning for high school students who have failed traditional classes.

An increasing number of states are getting serious about vetting the online education companies that are now responsible for instructing a growing number of their kids. And Florida, at first glance, would seem to be one of them.

Each year, state officials scrutinize these online courses to ensure they meet state academic standards, as well as several other criteria. Last year, the Florida Department of Education rejected the company Online Education Ventures, which failed to provide descriptions of its virtual courses in science, social studies, and English (it provided descriptions of the math courses, but they didn’t meet state standards). A year earlier, the state disqualified Mosaica Online because the company didn’t show it could provide timely information about its courses. And it said no to Odysseyware, since it failed to outline student anti-discrimination policies or show how its products could meet the needs of students with disabilities.

But here’s the rub: Those companies are still allowed to sell their products to schools in Florida. Public school districts can still use public money to educate students with discredited products like Online Education Ventures’. And the state says it has no idea how many of its 75 school districts—if any—are doing just that. “School districts may contract with any online course provider they wish to work with,” said Alix Miller, a department spokeswoman. Florida’s system for regulating online education looks like it has at least some rigor. In practice, it’s as thin as a sheet of loose-leaf paper.

Florida is one of a growing number of states that are starting to rate or review online course providers, offering a check on a booming industry that’s reshaping the nature of high school education nationally. But as in Florida, in most of these states the new rules have very little teeth. Local control reigns supreme.

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High court ruling opens next front in gerrymandering wars – BY REID WILSON – 05/25/17 06:47 AM EDT

The Supreme Court’s Monday decision to strike down a North Carolina congressional district map is being hailed as a victory for voting rights advocates — though some caution that the path ahead for Democrats fighting gerrymandering has just become more treacherous.

The court’s decision in Cooper v. Harris found that North Carolina’s legislature had improperly considered race when it drew two congressional districts after the 2010 census. Justice Elena Kagan wrote the majority opinion with three liberal colleagues. Justice Clarence Thomas, the anchor of the court’s conservative wing, joined them.

“The Supreme Court has now made it abundantly clear to Republican legislators that their cynical game of using race as an excuse to gerrymander is over, and that the courts are not going to sit by when challenges are brought,” said Marc Elias, the Democratic lawyer who argued the case. “And I plan on bringing those challenges.”

Elias said his phone has been “ringing off the hook” with calls from legislators who believe the decision could open their states to new legal challenges.

“We are looking for other places where Republican legislatures have committed the same legal error,” he said.

But Thomas’s concurring opinion offered a warning to those celebrating the ruling. In his opinion, Thomas said the North Carolina defendants improperly relied on the Voting Rights Act, which he believes does not apply to redistricting at all.

Justices Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy and Chief Justice John Roberts dissented. Justice Neil Gorsuch, who joined the Supreme Court after arguments in the North Carolina case, did not participate in the ruling.

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UK police stop passing Manchester bombing information to US over leaks – Jessica Elgot First published on Thursday 25 May 2017 04.19 EDT

Officers investigating Manchester Arena bombing take decision as transatlantic row over leaks escalates

Armed police patrol the streets Of Manchester. Photograph: UPI/Barcroft Images

British police have stopped sharing evidence from the investigation into the terror network behind the Manchester bombing with the United States after a series of leaks left investigators and the government furious.

The ban is limited to the Manchester investigation only. British police believe the leaks are unprecedented in their scope, frequency and potential damage.

Downing Street was not behind the decision by Greater Manchester police to stop sharing information with US intelligence, a No 10 source said, stressing that it was important police were allowed to take independent decisions.

“This is an operational matter for police,” a No 10 spokesman said. The police and the Home Office refused to comment. The Guardian understands there is not a blanket ban on intelligence-sharing between the US and the UK.

Relations between the US and UK security services, normally extremely close, have been put under strain by the scale of the leaks from US officials to the American media.

After chairing a meeting of the emergency Cobra meeting Theresa May said: “I will make clear to President Trump that intelligence shared between our security agencies must remain secure.” She is due to meet the US president at a Nato summit in Brussels on Thursday.

British officials were infuriated on Wednesday when the New York Times publishedforensic photographs of sophisticated bomb parts that UK authorities fear could complicate the expanding investigation, in which six further arrests have been made in the UK and two more in Libya.

It was the latest of a series of leaks to US journalists that appeared to come from inside the US intelligence community, passing on data that had been shared between the two countries as part of longstanding security cooperation.

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